On November 7, 2011, protestors took to the streets of Washington D.C. to protest the BP Oil Company’s response to the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill. Organizers marched and rallied to bring attention to the lack of transparency and slow repayment of claims filed to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility by victims of the spill. The protesters also demanded the formation of a Gulf Coast citizen-led oversight committee to hold BP oil accountable for residual damage and claims issues.
Urgency To Get BP Claims Paid By The GCCF
Art Rocker, the chair of Operation People for Peace, Inc., was one of the rally’s organizers. “On Sunday, we joined a picket around the White house on the [oil spill issue] until President Barack Obama begins to answer the needs of this coalition and encourage the urgency of the claims to be paid in the Gulf Coast Region headed by BP Claims Czar Ken Feinberg…” Rocker said, “We are marching in front of Ken Feinberg’s office, on Monday [11/7/2011] to determine when he is going to provide payment to the underserved and underrepresented in the Gulf Coast Region.”
The protestors have more than a few reasons to be angry. The Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) has more than $20 billion set aside in their claims fund for victims of the spill, but has only paid out about $6 billion to date. The majority of those payouts occurred in the first few months of the spill during the emergency payment phase.
GCCF Payments Has Slowed To A Crawl
As of August 2011, the GCCF reported that it has approved and paid 38% of the 947,892 BP claims that victims have filed. Since then, payments from the GCCF have slowed to a crawl, so the percentage is steadily creeping lower. Federal watchdogs have enacted stricter requirements for people filing claims as a way to wind down the claims process. This has caused the rate of claim denials to skyrocket upward.
News reports are suggesting that GCCF Pay Czar Kenneth Feinberg is gearing up to put the brakes on payments altogether. In a recent Fox News article, Feinberg mentioned that the claims process was wrapping up. GCCF claims offices throughout the Gulf Coast region have been closing and the organization has been consolidating its workforce anticipating the end of claims processing. Feinberg said that the GCCF has processed more than 80% of claims, noting, “I’ve used just over $4 billion dollars…I don’t envision a flood of new claims.”
The Gulf Coast Claims Facility Ready To End The BP Claims Process.
The Gulf Coast Claims Facility expects to end the claims process in 2013. The basis for this estimation is the agency’s assertion that the Gulf Coast’s economy is already bouncing back. The GCCF also attests that the negative environmental effects of the BP oil spill are quickly diminishing as well. Many environmentalists, biologists, Gulf Coast business owners, and fisheries profoundly disagree.
A year after the oil spill, the final payment for an average claim was $16,000. Currently, the average final payment is $20,000. The claims process is ending soon, so victims must take care of denied or unprocessed claims quickly, before the GCCF dissipates altogether.