BP - bankrolling governments, bankrupting coastal residents

by Heather Miller

Government agencies, consultants and elected officials are still raking in the dough that BP shelled out after last year's spill, while coastal residents sit outside and wait for the shaft.

BP has poured almost immeasurable amounts of money into the Gulf Coast since last year's oil spill, funding everything from ecosystem research to tourism promotion in Shreveport. Meanwhile, restaurant owners, oyster fishermen and others affected by the spill are still forced to sit in plastic chairs outside the Gulf Coast Claims Facility to fight for their relief.

Jeremy Alford writes in New Orleans' Gambit newspaper that there were numerous other compensation programs to surface after the spill, such as the $100 million BP fund for rig workers who were expected to lose their jobs when drilling was shut down. But that program, along with others that BP funded, remains largely untapped while companies hired to oversee the vacant job-training sessions are still taking a cut of the money.

And despite all the untouched money floating around, BP execs sent a letter to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility recently asking administrators to stop paying out claims for future losses. That can't sit well for coastal residents whose livelihoods depend on the oyster beds that were destroyed last year and take three to four years to recover:

The GCCF was created in August of last year and it still has a long way to go. At last count, the facility has received approximately 857,000 claims from more than 500,000 individuals and businesses. So far, in excess of 300,000 claims have been approved, of which more than 150,000 are actually settled. The total payout is quickly approaching $5 billion. BP initially put up $20 billion to bankroll the GCCF - and spent millions in slick TV ads touting its alleged generosity and commitment to "making things right."

That was last year.

Today, BP's line goes something like this: "Multiple lines of evidence demonstrate that, to the extent portions of the Gulf economy were impacted by the spill, the Gulf economy has recovered, and there is not a basis for continuing to pay a future factor to account for the risk of future loss."

That's from the letter sent to GCCF officials two weeks ago.

As folks on the ground and along the coast prepare to get shafted - again - elected officials continue to do what they've done from the beginning: look for deep pockets. There's no shame in that, as long as it's done for the benefit of communities and constituents.

Clearly, there's a lot of cash on the table. Years from now - or, one hopes, sooner - somebody is bound to ask, "Was it used effectively?"

Read more here.