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Congressman Grijalva to BP: Reinstate Internal Claims Process Immediately

12 comments

WASHINGTON – Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, released the following statement in response to reports that British Petroleum (BP) had ended its internal oil spill claims program for more than 10,000 Gulf Coast residents who were impacted by the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill:

“BP has effectively shut down recourse for more than 10,000 people who suffered as a result of the oil company’s negligence and incompetence leading up to and during the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil disaster,” said Rep. Grijalva. “These are people whose lives and livelihoods were completely upended by an oil company willing to minimize safety compliance in order to maximize profits. They made their money, and they cause a catastrophe in the process. Now they’re taking steps to ensure their precious profits filter down to as few of their victims as possible. This is what happens when your business model is pure greed, and it is utterly shameful.”

On March 13, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lifted its ban on BP’s drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the New York Times, less than one week later on March 19th, BP bid on and won 24 new contacts for $42 million.

“The part that really adds insult to injury is that BP just received the green light to start drilling again,” Grijalva continued. “And what’s their next move after the door is open for them to profit off of us again? They turn around and leave many of their victims high and dry with no means of recouping the losses.

“These claimants deserve better than to be shortchanged and then dropped flat. BP must reinstate their internal claims program immediately, and maintain it until they can clearly demonstrate that all those harmed by their actions have been properly compensated.”

The internal oil spill claims program served claimants who opted out of BP’s court-supervised settlement program. These individuals either weren’t covered under the terms of the settlement or felt that the arranged settlement did not provide adequate compensation.

12 Comments

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  1. Ron says:
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    If the congressman wants to call out BP, fine, but he should get his facts right. Apparently his notion that the BP’s “internal claims process” provided effective “recourse” to anybody was badly mistaken. Rather, it sounds like the overall effect of BP’s process/office was negative, in that in probably led a lot of claimants suppose that they didn’t have to protect their rights via filing a lawsuit. To the extent that’s a problem, it won’t be solved by reinstating a process that never worked in the first place.

  2. Dave Arnsby says:
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    Ron, I appreciate your comments. You do make a very good point.
    The BP Claims Program was launched on June 4th 2012 and was boldly promoted on the front home page of the BP website.
    The criteria was very clear and listed three categories of claimants that could opt out of the settlement program and submit a claim direct to BP. It was an open invitation that turned out to be a trap, because after everyone followed the strict rules and duly submitted in good faith a ‘”presentment ” by January 20th 2013, BP had 90 days in which to settle the claims.
    Problem was, they did nothing, leaving the claimants no other option than to file suit by April 20th 2013. ( OPA Deadline ).
    BP then filed a motion to have all those lawsuits stayed, and Judge Barbier obliged.
    To this day nothing has changed.
    It has become the mission and intention of BP to financially ruin and destroy the victims, even when they have, as I do for example, a pre-approved case, with eligibility and determination letters in hand.
    Remember, every article published by BP says boldly ” We will pay all legitimate claims “.
    Something has to be done now to get these opt out cases paid.
    BP has no legal or moral right to withhold compensation any longer.

  3. Ron says:
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    Sounds to me like the congressman is just grandstanding. What was the point of BP’s claims office anyway, other than PR for BP? Members of the settlement class didn’t use it, and surely BP was playing hardball with the claimants who did. Anyone who was damaged by the spill but wasn’t in the settlement class and who protected themselves by filing a lawsuit still has a good claim, and if the defendant(s) want to settle with them to avoid a judgment they don’t need a “claims office” to do that.

    • Tom Young says:
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      Ron – With regard to grandstanding, I suppose I would call it public relations. Fighting BP’s PR fire with fire.

      From my understanding, the purpose of the BP internal claims program was to provide a mechanism for individuals and entities that did not participate in the Settlement to comply with the presentment requirements of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. OPA requires claimants to present their claims to the “responsible party” 90 days prior to filing a complaint. I suppose the legislative intent was to allow the responsible party an opportunity to resolve the claims w/o litigation. By closing the program, BP has decided not to exercise that option.

      BP says they have “resolved” the vast majority of claims filed in their internal system. If by “resolve” they mean “deny,” then that may be accurate.

  4. Dave Arnsby says:
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    Tom, firstly thank you for your efforts to
    fight for victims rightful compensation. You are the best. BP’s statement last week that 99% of Claims Program cases were “Resolved ” is
    blatantly not true. A huge number of cases in that 99% were “Denied “. We all know that the paltry $11M figure on the BP Stats page, barely moved in well over a year.
    Almost all cases that were submitted under presentment in January 2013 were totally ignored in the 90 day “resolution window” forcing claimants to file suit before the April 20th 2013 deadline, or risk having no way forward.
    In effect BP is taking this to a whole new level by openly declaring war against genuine, legitimate, fully documented victims, that in cases like mine, are already in receipt of eligibility and determination notices.
    It is the “Mission of BP ” to destroy and ruin the the financial well being of the victims.
    And why ? because they have been allowed to.
    To this day BP still say openly ” We will pay all legitimate claims “. The EPA were crazy to give them back drilling licences in March. Why do that when BP is continuing to attack genuine victims in such a way. Action must be taken now to stop this.

  5. Eyeswideopen says:
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    On August 28, 2012 the class notice was released and mailed outlining the option to all class members. Class members needed to choose to accept the terms or opt-out, for all others considered non-class members BP was to operate under the OPA guidelines.
    http://www.deepwaterhorizonsettlements.com/Documents/Economic%20Detailed%20Notice.pdf

    Class notice reads:
    Your Other Options: If you do not want to be legally bound by the E&PD Settlement, you must Opt Out or exclude yourself by November 1, 2012 or you won’t be able to sue BP over certain economic and property damage claims. If you stay in the E&PD Settlement, you may object to it by September 7, 2012. The Detailed Notice explains how to exclude yourself or object.

    25. If I exclude myself from the Economic & Property Damage Settlement, can I still make an Oil Pollution Act claim with BP directly?

    Yes. Individuals, businesses, and Entities that exclude themselves from the E&PD Settlement may file Oil Pollution Act (“OPA”) claims directly with BP. You can get more information about filing an Oil Pollution Act claim directly with BP by visiting http://www.bp.com/claims or calling 1-855-687-2631.

    Reopening or asking BP to reinstate the claim center is the last thing we need. I’m not a fan of Fienberg but we do need the Gulf States representatives to appoint someone to oversee that process. Start with a BDO audit it will expose the same problems found under GCCF delay and deny. Take the money from the fines BP paid or will pay to the U.S. Government, compensate the victims that are excluded or opt-out and give BP the bill.

  6. Ron says:
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    Tom, is anyone really hurt by BP’s closure of its own claims office? Anyone covered by the settlement can pursue their claim that way, right? As for victims who aren’t covered by the settlement, either because they chose to opt out or they weren’t covered by the deal in the first place, don’t (or didn’t) they still have “recourse” through the courts like any other plaintiff in any other case?

    • Tom Young says:
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      Ron, you are likely correct. But it shows once again BP’s total unwillingness to even entertain settlement with the folks who opted out.

  7. thomas f says:
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    When we first filed for a BEL claim under the GCCF, I received letters of support from David Vitter, Mary Landrieu, and Congressman Bobby Schilling (R-IL). They all supported us throughout the GCCF; then, they disappeared as we approached an election term. It’s sad that our elected officials have become such a large part of the problem. What about the lost tax revenue from business and individual earnings throughout the Gulf. Surely it would be safe to assume that our elected officials would like to increase state revenue by ensuring hard working businesses and individuals are compensated fairly and can return to work. However, it seems they’d rather pander directly to the firm’s that fund their campaigns. Sad day for America.

  8. Sandra says:
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    Thank you Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) for standing up for the people of the Gulf Cosst,

    • Tom Young says:
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      Agreed. Representative Grijalva is to be commended. But where are the Gulf’s elected officials? The congressman is from Arizona. Where are the federal, state and local leaders of the Gulf Coast?

  9. Jerry Elrod says:
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    It’s about time some body stood up for the mass of people that has Been hurt instead crying about a few people that that filed faults claims

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