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BP’s “State of the Gulf” Website: Consider the Source Indeed

6 comments

Thanks to a call from a reporter this afternoon, I was made aware of an article critical of my writings that appeared earlier this week on thestateofthegulf.com, one of BP’s propaganda vehicles. The piece, titled “Consider Your Source,” does a masterful job of taking my words out of context and ignoring the obvious. While I would have preferred to address the author personally, alas, unlike my articles, BP’s cowardly attacks come with no byline.

So I then looked to comment at the bottom of BP’s story, but surprise, the company does not allow comments. Wonder why? My articles always welcome comments, pro and con, so feel free to chime in below. Since I cannot address the accusations directly on BP’s site, I will do so here.

Considering the Source

Judging from the title of BP’s article, “Consider the Source,” the company’s anonymous author insinuates that my readers mistake The Legal Examiner for the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, or some other bastion of journalistic excellence. While flattering, I find it hard to believe that my personal and admitted biases are not more than evident for all to see. After all, associated with my byline is a link to several of my online bios, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and a lawyer-centric site called Avvo, where any nincompoop can see that I am not a fan of BP’s.

So if there is indeed a “source to consider,” I posit it is those behind the operation of thestateofthegulf.com, as my identity is well known.

BP’s mystery author claims to have found “a gem” of information in the FAQ section of my law firm web site, tlylaw.com, that allegedly encourages those not harmed by the company’s spill to apply for compensation. Poppycock. Here is how my site reads, verbatim:

“We also run into those who believe they do not deserve compensation as they cannot prove a direct correlation between the oil spill and their financial circumstances. The parties to this agreement were very intentional in designing the compensation criteria in a way that does not require a conventional causation analysis, as it would be nearly impossible to isolate the exact impact of the oil spill on Gulf area businesses. Rather, certain formulas are applied to determine if you qualify for payment. If your revenue trend corresponds with the parameters dictated by these formulas, then all losses are presumed to have been caused by the oil spill.”

The application of the formulas and standards described above are detailed in the 1,200 page contractual Settlement Agreement and have been confirmed time and time again by BP representatives. BP’s ghostwriter bemoans “Well, that’s wrong. Paying claims to people who didn’t suffer losses traceable to the accident is contrary to the express terms of the settlement agreement.”

I agree that those not affected by BP’s spill should not be compensated. That’s common sense. In fact, my law firm has turned away hundreds of business owners who could not demonstrate they were harmed by the spill as prescribed by the Settlement Agreement. Nowhere do I say payments should be made to those who did not suffer a loss associated with BP’s oil spill. I simply point out that the Settlement Agreement authored and signed by BP substitutes a formulaic approach to causation for the conventional one.

While BP no doubt wishes claimants were required to “prove” their losses to the satisfaction of a jury (or to BP itself), such is not the nature of a settlement. As BP’s lead attorney Richard Godfrey said when seeking Court approval of the Agreement:

” … the settlement that has been reached to resolve this litigation is a compromise, a yielding of the highest hopes in exchange for certainty and resolution.”

The Real State of the Gulf

BP implies that I am hiding something from my readers. If anyone is hiding it is BP. And not just about its misrepresentations regarding the Settlement Agreement.

One would think that a web site called thestateofthegulf.com would make some effort to accurately report on the real time environmental condition of same. Instead we get self serving comments such as “the Gulf is undergoing a strong recovery.” Au contraire.

Since the end of BP’s official cleanup efforts in June 2013, the government (not BP) has documented and removed more than 26,200 tar balls and over 400 pounds of Deepwater Horizon oil from Florida’s beaches alone (not including Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana or Texas). And this is just a fraction of what is out there, as on an average day, a Florida Department of Environmental Protection survey team covers no more than 1,000 yards of beach, less than 1% of Florida’s shoreline that was impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

So yes, this massive pollution persists, making it more important than ever to consider the source when told that the “Gulf is undergoing a strong recovery.”

From the following photos, taken within the past two weeks and as recently as today, it appears BP has left town well before the job was done. Similar photographs are taken every single day along Florida’s beaches.

So much for the “strong recovery” and the company’s “Commitment to the Gulf,” nearly four years after the disaster.

January 16, 2014 BP Oil - SRB Sample A

Portion of BP Oil collected Thursday, January 16, 2014 on Escambia County, Florida beaches. These hardened balls are often filled with deadly, flesh-eating bacteria. Do not handle without protective gloves.

January 15, 2014 BP Oil - SRP Sample B

Portion of BP Oil collected January 15, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 15, 2014 BP Oil - SRB Sample A

Portion of BP Oil collected January 15, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 15, 2014 BP Oil - SRB Sample B

Portion of BP Oil collected January 15, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 15, 2014 BP Oil - SRP Sample A

Portion of BP Oil collected January 15, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 14, 2014 BP Oil - SRB Sample B

Portion of BP Oil collected January 14, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 14, 2014 BP Oil - SRB Sample A

Portion of BP Oil collected January 14, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 13, 2014 BP Oil - SRB Sample

Portion of BP Oil collected January 13, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 12, 2014 BP Oil - SRB Sample

Portion of BP Oil collected January 12, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 9, 2014 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil - Large SRP & SRB Samples

Portion of BP Oil collected January 9, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 9, 2014 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil - Large SRP

Portion of BP Oil collected January 9, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 9, 2014 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil - Large SRP

Portion of BP Oil collected January 9, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 9, 2014 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil - Large SRP

Portion of BP Oil collected January 9, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 9, 2014 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil - Large SRP

Large Surface Residue Patty of BP Deepwater Horizon Oil collected January 9, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 8, 2014 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil, Escambia County, FL Beach

Portion of BP Oil collected January 8, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 7, 2014 BP Oil - SRB Sample

Portion of BP Oil collected January 7, 2014 on Florida beaches.

January 7, 2014 BP Oil - SRP Sample

Surface residue patties found along Escambia County, FL beach, January 7, 2014.

January 6, 2014 BP Oil

Portion of BP Oil collected January 6, 2014 on Florida beaches.

Portion of BP Oil collected January 2, 2014 on Walton County, Florida beachs. These hardened balls are often filled with deadly, flesh-eating bacteria. Do not handle without protective gloves.

Portion of BP Oil collected January 2, 2014 on Walton County, Florida beach.

 

6 Comments

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  1. Tom Young says:
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    Good Morning (or afternoon) Dennis,

    Re Exxon, that spill predated, and was the impetus for, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

    OPA required BP to establish such a fund. I think we are kidding ourselves in thinking BP acted out of some sense of charity. It was the company’s legal duty.

    How would you propose we decide who is deserving and who is not?

    Trial by jury is always an effective method. Alas, BP chose to forgo that option when it entered into this settlement. Instead the company designed mathematical formulas to determine eligibility. Despite BP’s complaints, the company has yet to propose any other method.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree on what constitutes a “justifiable” claim.

    Have a nice weekend.

    Tom

  2. Dennis Bradley says:
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    Hi Tom

    Thanks for your reply.

    The point on Exon I was making is that the Exon corperation did not set up a fund to compensate, it took years of court hearings before Exon began to pay out.

    The key statement in your response is correct, courts must ensure all claims are legitimate.

    Thus far New Orleans courts have failed to ensure claimants have justifiable claims.

    Also there is an awful smell surrounding a number of legal firms / individuals and the way they have conducted themselves.

    Whichever way you look at it this was a tragic occurrence for those people who lost their lives, their families and numerous businesses and individuals.

    The agreement entered into by BP was designed to ensure all legitimate claims for losses incurred would be met. There is clear evidence that this agreement is being abused.

    Why are we then surprised when BP endeavours to ensure the courts in New Orleans and the appointed commitee has some form of control to see legitimate claims paid and unsupported claims refused.

  3. Tom Young says:
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    Mr. Powell,

    You may be eligible for what is known as a “start up” claim:

    http://www.deepwaterhorizonsettlements.com/Documents/Economic%20SA/Ex7_Framework_for_Start-Up_Business_Claims.pdf

    This assumes at a minimum that your rental property is located within a geographic compensation zone and that you were operational (or incurred expenses associated therewith) on or before April 20, 2010.

  4. dennis powell says:
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    I only suffered minor rental losses on my rental home in the Florid gulf [$6000. to $10,000 est losses]. I was rejected by a law firm, [Bertenson] because I had no rental history before 2010 because I did not rent my house before 2010. yet my cancelled bookings documented by my rental agent were real and I was hurt financially. is there any way a “small fish” like me can apply for some relief?

  5. Tom Young says:
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    Thank you for the comment Dennis.

    Exxon Valdez occurred in an economic wasteland (albeit environmentally pristine). There were well less than 1 million people w/i 1,000 miles of Prince William Sound in 1989.

    By contrast, Deepwater Horizon occurred in the heart of the southern continental United States, where well over 100 million people live and work w/i 1,000 miles of the accident zone.

    The annual GDP of Alaska is approximately $44 billion. The combined GDP of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and one-half of Florida is approximately $835 billion.

    Apple’s and oranges.

    You mention that BP agreed to pay “all direct losses.” Yet as most economists will agree, the impact of the spill spread far and wide into the Gulf region’s economy.

    As such, the contract language defining a compensable loss – the definition BP’s lawyers authored and signed in the Settlement Agreement – reads as follows:

    “Economic Damage shall mean loss of profits, income and/or earnings … allegedly arising out of, due to, resulting from, or relating in any way to, directly or indirectly, the Deepwater Horizon Incident.” – Settlement Agreement, Section 38.57

    BP agreed to pay all loses, both direct and indirect.

    That said, I agree with you when you say “the courts [should] ensure that all claims are legitimate.”

  6. Dennis Bradley says:
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    Boy you have a lot of time on your hands.

    Reading all the reports on this it appears BP have no issues meeting claims where the claimant can demonstrate losses directly resulting from the oil spill.

    Unlike the Exon Corperation BP stepped up to the plate and agreed to compensate all direct loss companies and individuals. In spite of this they have been faced with numerous unjustified claims as a number of claimants sieze the opportunity to make a fast buck.

    If you look at all the court reports and the media reports BP have been consistant in confirming all legitimate claims will be met.

    In the UK where I am from any claims need to be substantiated and demonstrate loss as a result of any fault or action. It appears the courts in the US are more interested in points of law than this simple premis.

    What is your position. Should BP pay claims from companies or individuals who have suffered no loss at all or should they and the courts ensure that all claims are legitimate.

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