Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mississippi Center for Justice leads effort for free legal services to BP Oil claimants

Mississippi Center for Justice leads effort for free legal services to BP Oil claimants

The Mississippi Center for Justice has been named the administrator for a $1.9 million grant from Gulf Coast Claims Facility to provide free legal services to BP oil claimants across a five-state area. A network of nonprofit civil legal services organizations from Texas to Florida is now providing free legal assistance to unrepresented claimants in the BP oil disaster recovery. Attorneys will advise claimants about documentation needed for the claims process, review settlement offers and provide legal advice and assistance about other matters related to their claims. Legal assistance is offered independent of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

“As Gulf Coast residents continue to struggle with recovery from the BP oil disaster, we are here to ensure they have equitable access to a fair claims process,” says Martha Bergmark, Mississippi Center for Justice president. “We are collaborating with similar organizations in other Gulf states to ensure that claimants have an opportunity to seek a fair settlement.”

The group aims to provide legal assistance to residents who may otherwise be unable to afford an attorney. The organizations have been working together to examine the claims process and have provided input to GCCF about barriers that the process creates to low-income and minority claimants.

“Legal services attorneys from the Gulf states have been working together since last summer to find a way to provide this service to victims of the BP oil disaster,” said Bergmark. “We know from previous disaster recovery situations that low-income people need legal assistance but cannot afford an attorney. Without this service, they are denied a fair opportunity to fully explore their options. We are delighted that our diligent efforts to make this a cornerstone of the claims process is now a reality.”

Claimants may request the free legal assistance at any claims office, or by contacting the appropriate organization in their state.

Alabama 866-456-4995, press 6  Services provided by Legal Services Alabama

Florida  855-299-1337  Services provided by Legal Services of North Florida and North Florida Center for Equal Justice

Louisiana 504-355-0970 if you are in Orleans or Jefferson Parish. Outside those areas, call 800-310-7029.  Or, e-mail your name, telephone number and a brief description of the help you are seeking to:
Services provided by Louisiana Civil Justice Center, Louisiana Justice Institute, Moving Forward Gulf Coast, Pro Bono Project, and Southeast Louisiana Legal Services

Mississippi  888-725-5423  Services provided by Mississippi Center for Justice, Mississippi Center for Legal Services and Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project

Texas  800-733-8394 
Services provided by Lone Star Legal Aid

Gulf Coast Claims Facility is also referring claimants from the claims centers. More than 500 requests for free legal services have already been referred to the appropriate legal services organizations in each state.

"The story that everybody has been talking about" -- Disturbing Test Results

Part I here:

Oil Spill Health Issues, KLFY, January 27, 2011: [A] new report just out has revealed some very disturbing findings. ... A blood study that was conducted on four males ages 3 to 43 and one female age 38 in December of last year. Subra says the results of those tests have revealed elevated levels of six toxic and potentially life threatening chemicals associated with crude oil, most notably Ethylbenzene which has been linked to kidney damage and cancer. ... UL Lafayette Professor Paul Klerks is an expert in the environmental toxicology and he says the high levels of ethyl benzene found in human patients is alarming but he doesn't believe its reason to panic just yet. "This is potentially cause for concern, but it's a very small sample size of five so it's really hard to tell with just a small sample size what it means as whole." ... [Their] problems included everything from trouble breathing, and bleeding from the ears, to swelling of the limbs and blood in the stool. Some of the more unusual cases include a commercial diver who is plagued by mysterious rash and the three year son of a fisherman who is suffering from kidney stones.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Forgetfulness Is Our Enemy, Recovery Is Our Salvation

Forgetfulness Is Our Enemy, Recovery Is Our Salvation

Since I first arrived on the Gulf Coast to cover the BP Slick disaster I have met and befriended thousands both here in America and around the globe. People flocked to my blog site to see what was happening due to me ability to fly out there and bring in fresh new footage at least weekly. This was due to my good friend and pilot, Tom Hutchings with the flight service, SouthWings.

SouthWings and Tom provided a platform like no other in the world. Even the US Coast Guard footage never showed what we captured and exposed to the world.

Supposedly the well is sealed but the disaster still is with us today.

This video is of the beginning of projects intended to restore coastal Alabama marshes by creating new oyster reefs to protect them from the daily wave action which causes the loss of several feet a year.

                 Check out why “Forgetfulness Is Our Enemy and Recovery Is Our Salvation!”

Chasidy Hobbs, Emerald COASTKEEPER
Compounds from corexit were found 200 miles from the wellhead 2 months after BP supposedly stopped using them, according to a study published in the peer reviewed journal Environment Science and Technology. 1 thing is for certain, the very short life span claimed by BP and the EPA is obviously false or BP continues to spray corexit.

The study is attached or you may rather read a news story:,0,2091566.story

Chasidy Fisher Hobbs
Coastkeeper & Executive Director
Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc.

We need members to help in our fight for clean water. Please Join NOW:

Proud member of

Donate to all Waterkeepers on the Gulf Coast:

"Never underestimate the power a few dedicated citizens have to change the world, indeed that is all that ever has" Margaret Mead

Claimants can obtain free legal assistance for oil spill claims

Please see below a message from Senator Bill Nelson:
Claimants can obtain free legal assistance for oil spill claims

Attorneys for Legal Services of North Florida are ready to help individuals and businesses navigate the claims process in the aftermath of the BP oil spill.

LSNF is participating in a five-state network of nonprofit civil legal services now providing free legal help to unrepresented claimants, who can receive advice on documentation needed for the claims process, review of settlement offers and assistance with related matters. "Generally, there is a lot of confusion about the process," said Leslie Powell, senior attorney in Pensacola for Legal Services of North Florida. Individuals are unsure of which claims options to pursue or which would be in their best interest. "There are three processes that people may go through. Those three combined make it harder for them to make a decision," Powell added.

LSNF has joined with other legal-aid programs in five Gulf states from Texas to Florida under a grant funded by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. The grant is administered by the Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit law firm, and the legal help is offered independently of the GCCF.

The service is for residents who may otherwise be unable to afford an attorney. The aid organizations have been examining the claims process and have provided input about barriers that the process creates to low-income and minority claimants, according to LSNF.

"LSNF has seen its clients adversely affected by the BP oil disaster. With the continuing economic strife, as well as concerns about the oil spill and the effects on the livelihood of those living in north Florida, LSNF is seeing more and more people come to us for help," said Kristine E. Knab, LNSF's executive director.

LSNF is a private nonprofit that provides free legal representation to low-income people with civil legal problems. It has offices in Tallahassee, Quincy, Panama City, Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola. For information on claims assistance, call (855) 299-1337 or visit

Chasidy Fisher Hobbs Coastkeeper

Spill Commission Concludes Dispersants Are an Acceptable 'Tradeoff'

Jerry Cope

Jerry Cope

Posted: January 26, 2011 06:18 PM 

If one were to judge by the amount of media attention and press recently the BP blowout at the Macondo site in the Gulf of Mexico nine months ago is a wrap. The report given to President Obama from the National Oil Spill Commission, which was completed on a very tight timeline, provides an overview of the spill and recommendations for ensuring such an incident does not happen again in the future. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the report did not include or consider a sufficient amount of independent data regarding the short- and long-term impacts of the spill on the ecosystems, marine life, and human health. Independent studies on all aspects of the spill have been hampered by both a lack of funding and the withholding of critical data from researchers by government agencies and BP. Even as the report was released and commissioners holding forums and press briefings along the Gulf Coast, record amounts of crude continue to roll in with the tides. On Thursday, January 13, a record 17,000 lbs of crude was collected from the surf on one small section of beach in the Ft. Morgan area of Alabama.
From Louisiana to Florida, cleanup workers, ordinary citizens, and tourists have been sickened by exposure to the toxic crude and dispersants. In the areas where people live near or are surrounded by the Gulf waters, documented cases of sickness consistent with chemical poisoning related to crude and dispersants continue to increase; specifically southern Louisiana, the Ocean Springs area of Mississippi, and the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach resorts cities of Alabama. Despite medical tests showing high levels of chemical poisoning and physicians reports confirming widespread illnesses, the mainstream media has given only passing coverage to the health issues. The National Oil Spill Commission in its final report to the president likewise gives the health impacts only a passing mention despite the fact that it was a top-tier issue at every public forum the Commission held as Commissioner Frances Beinecke noted recently in New Orleans.

The use of the Nalco Corexit dispersants has been riddled with controversy from the beginning. While the EPA theoretically has ultimate control over their use, a loophole in the National Oil and Hazardous Substance Pollution Contingency Plan (300.915 (d) ) allows the Coast Guard to unilaterally approve their deployment if the spill poses a "threat to human safety." One can not ignore the irony of this justification for the use of Corexit as the dispersant itself is a known carcinogen, causes genetic mutations, and can bioaccumulate, thus posing a health threat to anyone consuming seafood caught in contaminated waters. According to officials, dispersant use was terminated in mid-July. However, Corexit was observed being used and recorded in late October with continued reports of aircraft spraying through December and into January 2011 in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.
Below are the Metametrix test results for an 11-year-old boy, Noah, who lives in Mississippi. In late October Noah's mother Lorrie who is a crabber, heard an airplane flying very low over their house. They ran outside and found that the plane had sprayed the area with dispersant on its way out to the gulf. Lorrie and her family drove down to the beach and observed the plane flying in close to shore spraying. In December Lorrie, her husband Bubba, and 11-year-old son Noah were tested for chemical poisoning. The bloodwork for these tests was drawn on December 6, 2010. The levels indicated of toxic VOC's related to crude and the dispersant are reason for serious concern, especially for Noah who tested higher than his parents. He has extreme difficulty breathing, consistent nose bleeds, stomach cramps, excruciating headaches, and problems with short term memory. He, his parents and many others need immediate medical attention and treatment.
Oil Spill Commissioner Don Boesch has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the health impacts on US citizens and continues to defend the use of dispersants. The Spill Commission, during its six-month investigation, received numerous firsthand accounts of sickness and medical reports documenting chemical poisoning. Boesch has repeatedly fallen back on the fallacious argument that because the dispersant contains chemicals found in everyday household products it is safe. The concentrations and amount of these chemicals is the issue, not whether they may or may not be found in household products. It was never safe to deny respirators and protective gear to oil spill cleanup workers working with hazardous chemicals. Nine months after the spill, cleanup crews continue to be threatened with immediate termination should they choose to protect themselves from exposure to crude and dispersants. Workers on the beaches wearing respirators and full Tyvex do not present an acceptable image to the public or media. Allowing them to wear protective equipment could also potentially create legal problems for BP and its subcontractors as a de facto admission that dangerous conditions exist.

Noah's Tests Results Published With Parent's Permission

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Alabama’s new AG pursuing BP suit as lead attorney

Alabama’s new AG pursuing BP suit as lead attorney

By Bob Johnson The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 11:02 p.m.
MONTGOMERY | Alabama’s new attorney general says he will be lead counsel in the state’s lawsuit against BP and others over the Gulf oil spill and that he hopes his presence at a federal court hearing shows the judge how important the case is to residents harmed by the disaster.
Luther Strange said Wednesday that he’ll take the lead since the state is no longer using private law firms for the case.
Alabama has been harmed more than any other Gulf state hit by the spill because its tourism revenue is based on attracting visitors to its pristine white sand beaches, he said. Strange estimated that the state lost $148 million in tax revenues because of the spill and that businesses lost as much as $824 million in earnings.
The hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed against BP and other companies over damages have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans. Barbier is holding a status conference in his courtroom at 9:30 a.m. Friday to discuss how to proceed with efforts to settle some of the cases and bring others to trial.
“I want to make sure the judge understands this is a top priority for Alabama,” Strange said about being there.
Strange said he is working with new Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to pursue both the lawsuit and claims against BP. Former Gov. Bob Riley and former Attorney General Troy King were often at odds over how to proceed to recover losses. King filed a lawsuit, while Riley initially wanted to pursue the claims process.
Deputy Attorney General Corey Maze will be in court with Strange. He said attorneys are still trying to determine how much money the state lost that would include cleanup and lost tax revenue.

Asked if he thought the state’s claims against BP would eventually go to court, Maze said, “I question whether BP wants to face an Alabama jury knowing what they’ve done to Alabama.”
Former Alabama Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley said his Montgomery law firm had been working on the legal action against BP for the state, but stepped aside when Strange took office earlier this month.
But Beasley said his firm still represents numerous clients with claims and lawsuits against BP. One of his firm’s attorneys, Ron Jones, has been appointed by Judge Barbier to a committee that his helping the judge manage the massive case.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Crazy, Muddy Fun in the Gulf of Mexico

Crazy, Muddy Fun in the Gulf of Mexico

Written by Cindy Brown
Published on January 25th, 2011  |  Discuss This Article 

Somewhere around 10:30 a.m. last Saturday, January 22, it occurred to me that I had never seen so many cold, wet, muddy people look so happy.
They were at Helen Wood Park on Mobile Bay in Alabama ostensibly to help build just under a kilometer of oyster reef—a living shoreline that will help expand and strengthen the marsh, slow erosion and provide important habitat for oysters as well as fish, crabs, wading birds and countless other species that live in the Gulf of Mexico.
But really, they were there for so much more. I had a chance to talk to some of them as they worked next to me and when I thanked them for their time and for coming to help, they all gave me some version of the same response. They thanked me for the opportunity to “do something with my hands for the Gulf.” 

They came from as far as San Francisco and New Hampshire and as close as four blocks down the street. A bus full of volunteers from Honda enlivened everyone with their excitement and their bright red shirts. People came in groups and by themselves and with their families and their friends. Ladies from the League of Women Voters made us sandwiches (turkey or peanut butter) and Bethany Kraft of Alabama Coastal Foundation brought her turkey fryer so her husband could make hot chocolate by the boatload.

By the end of the weekend, some 545 people donated their time, and also something of themselves—their spirits and enthusiasm. I am still awed by what I saw.
For hours upon hours, they moved thousands of heavy sacks full of gritty oyster shell. And some of them—most of them—were beyond “muddy.” That’s the polite word for what they were, which was filthy.

I had to look twice at this volunteer—a young man who was part of a group from AmeriCorps who came down to help on their day off. I thought he was wearing boots with his shorts, but no—that’s not a boot. That’s good old Gulf mud caked all the way up to his knee. He looked like he couldn’t have been happier and the amazing thing was, he wasn’t alone. 
Everywhere I looked people were laughing and joking, helping each other and helping the Gulf. They were wise in their hope—as one woman told me, “We know one kilometer of new oyster reef in this one place in Mobile Bay will not fix everything that is wrong with the Gulf, but it feels good to start.”

Yes, it does. Stay tuned for more opportunities to help continue the restoration of the Gulf of Mexico. We’ll be in the water from Florida to Texas, and we need your hands, your time and your voice. The Gulf we depend on depends on us. (Bring your boots!)

The recent work at Helen Wood Park in Mobile Bay is part of the larger 100-1000: Restore Coastal Alabama project. Led by a partnership of the Alabama Coastal Foundation, Mobile Baykeeper, The Nature Conservancy and the Ocean Foundation, 100-1000 is working to build 100 miles of oyster reefs and plant and promote the growth of 1,000 acres of marsh and sea grass. You can also support the Conservancy’s work in the Gulf with a gift to our Fund for Gulf Coast Restoration.
(Images by Erika Nortemann/TNC.)

Why Build Oyster Reefs Now?

 On Jan. 22, 2011 Mobile BAYKEEPER, Nature Conservancy and many other groups and agencies teamed up to recreate oyster reefs for marsh protection.
Due to over harvesting, pollution and other reasons the oyster reefs have been severely depleted. This project is one of many scheduled to help the architects of the Gulf, the oysters, to make a comeback so they can once again flourish, creating more marsh habitat  in the process.

Oyster fishermen worried about problem area along the coast

Oyster fishermen worried about problem area along the coast  

by Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Posted on January 25, 2011 at 6:15 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- In the waters stretching from the MR-GO, down to the mouth of the Mississippi River, oysters are having a tough time, and a mystery is unfolding in one of the state's most productive areas for oysters.
"It's not a good sign," said John Tesvich, chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force.
The sign is a lack of oyster spat, in what is known as coastal zone number two. Scientists are baffled, and they said so at a meeting on Tuesday of the Oyster Task Force.
"That's really alarming, when we see large areas, some of the areas that are the heart of the predominant oyster seed ground, we're not seeing the young spat this year," Tesvich said.
The spat is the first critical step needed for oysters to rebound.
The past year has been tough for oyster fishermen and their crop, as they dealt with the BP oil spill and then fresh water diversions opened by the state, to try and keep the oil out. Byron Encalade, of the Louisiana Oystermen Association, said many of the oyster fishermen on the eastern bank of Plaquemines Parish are still facing hard times.
"I'm starting to worry about the mental stress building now," Encalade said. "Every time we wait and miss a cycle, it adds another year onto our recovery."
It takes three years for most oysters to mature. In coastal zone two, there is an additional issue.
"These areas are not only used for direct to market, but they're used as seed areas, where oyster farmers take the seed and plant it on their own oyster farms, for further cultivation," said Al Sunseri of P&J Oyster Company.
The lack of spat is now a real worry. At this point, it is not clear whether fresh water diversions -- from Caernarvon and other areas -- have anything to do with it. That's because areas that are even further away from the coast are also seeing the same spat problem.
"The outer reefs, further out, where the salinity would be considerably higher, should have had some spat signals. But we don't see it anywhere, and that's really tough," Tesvich said. "Normally after a fresh water event, the crop rebounds. We may even have bumper crops. That's traditionally been the general sequence of events, but we haven't seen that and nobody really knows why."
Oysters in other areas around the state appear to be better off, including the northern coastal areas of St. Bernard. The oyster task force is hoping biologists with Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will be able to figure out what's going on with the spat in coastal zone two and fix the problem.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Watch: The Daily Show features historic Turkey Creek, Mississippi

Watch: The Daily Show features historic Turkey Creek, Mississippi

Derrick Evans (Cuz) 09/15/05 after Katrina
Last night the historic African American community of Turkey Creek, in Gulfport, Mississippi, was featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  Derrick Evans, a Bridge The Gulf contributor (read his posts here) who is also Executive Director of Turkey Creek Community Initiatives and Advisor to the Gulf Coast Fund, tells of how residents formed an unlikely alliance to protect their land. 
This prompts Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac to test a theory: that birds are treated better than black people in Mississippi.
Related posts:
A different take on Turkey Creek's epic story tonight on The Daily Show
Behind the Scenes: The Daily Show comes to Turkey Creek, Mississippi

Oyster bed restoration among first since oil spill

Oyster bed restoration among first since oil spill

  Previous        Next    
In this photo taken Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, volunteers help lay bags of oyster shells in Alabama's Mobile Bay as part of a project by The Nature Conservancy and other environmental groups to restore oyster reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, in Mobile, Ala. Hundreds of volunteers from across the country spent the weekend helping with one of the first coastal restoration projects since BP's April 20 oil spill. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff)
In this photo taken Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, volunteers help lay bags of oyster shells in Alabama's Mobile Bay as part of a project by The Nature Conservancy and other environmental groups to restore oyster reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, in Mobile, Ala. Hundreds of volunteers from across the country spent the weekend helping with one of the first coastal restoration projects since BP's April 20 oil spill. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff) (Brian Skoloff - AP)
In this photo taken Jan. 22, 2011, volunteer Kim Weems prepares bags of oyster shells to be placed in Alabama's Mobile Bay as part of a project by The Nature Conservancy and other environmental groups to restore oyster reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, in Mobile, Ala. Hundreds of volunteers from across the country spent the weekend helping with one of the first coastal restoration projects since BP's April 20 oil spill. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff)
In this photo taken Jan. 22, 2011, volunteer Kim Weems prepares bags of oyster shells to be placed in Alabama's Mobile Bay as part of a project by The Nature Conservancy and other environmental groups to restore oyster reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, in Mobile, Ala. Hundreds of volunteers from across the country spent the weekend helping with one of the first coastal restoration projects since BP's April 20 oil spill. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff) (Brian Skoloff - AP)

The Associated Press
Monday, January 24, 2011; 5:40 AM
MOBILE, Ala. -- Volunteers from across the country are rebuilding oyster reefs along the Gulf of Mexico's delicate shoreline, hoping to revive oyster beds under assault for decades from overharvesting, coastal development, pollution, and most recently the BP oil spill.
The waters harbor much of the world's last remaining productive natural oyster beds, but BP PLC's April 20 oil well blowout dumped millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf and dealt yet another blow to the once bountiful habitat.
This weekend, volunteers descended on Mobile Bay with 23,000 bags of oyster shells aimed at eventually creating 100 miles of new oyster reefs near the shoreline. The goal is to help replenish oyster reefs that promote new growth, help protect delicate salt marshes and sea grasses, and act like coral in the tropics to provide habitat for numerous marine species.
It's one of the first coastal restoration projects since the oil spill sent thick crude washing into estuaries and onto beaches.
Biologist Rob Brumbaugh of The Nature Conservancy, which helped organize the event, said studies show that the world has already lost 85 percent of its natural oyster reefs, but the Gulf of Mexico remains a bright spot, even after the oil spill.
"Certainly the oil spill was a wake-up call and a serious impact that we have to recover from, but frankly, there's been 100 years or more of oyster reefs and salt marsh and sea grass loss," he said. "That's the larger thing that we're trying to recover from and set a new course."
About 350 volunteers came to lay 10-pound bags of oyster shells in a neat line several feet high on mud flats about 150 feet offshore to create new reefs across Mobile Bay.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contributed about $70,000 to the project, which was approved before the oil spill but was delayed until the waters were relatively clear of crude. Funding also came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and donations. The total cost is expected to be about $100 million, and it likely will take up to five years to complete if funding continues.
Brumbaugh said the oysters also help keep waterways clean. Each oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.
"If you remove all these oysters from the estuaries, you've essentially unplugged the aquarium. It's like turning off your pool filter and expecting it to stay in good shape," he said.
Chesapeake Bay oysters also have been devastated and are at only about 1 percent or 2 percent of their historic highs, hit by years of disease, pollution and overharvesting.
Oysters along the entire Gulf Coast were hit hard in the spill's aftermath, prompting closures and delays of harvesting seasons that are part of the region's economic lifeblood.
Louisiana saw scores of oyster die-offs from the summer of oil, in part because officials flooded some areas with fresh water to try to keep crude out of sensitive bays and estuaries. That upset the balance of fresh and salt water, killing oysters. In Mississippi, oyster mortality rates were so high after the spill, the state did not allow a dredging season for the first time in more than 20 years.
It instead opted for a limited tonging season, a much more laborious process of culling oysters from the sea floor by hand using a rake. State officials have said it's unclear if the oyster deaths were directly caused by the oil or a combination of factors, including unusually warm summer waters.
As much as 65 percent of the nation's oysters come from the Gulf.
"It's just time we start doing something more to reverse the problem," said Dan Everson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who helped with the Mobile oyster reef restoration project this weekend.
A U.S. presidential panel created to investigate the oil spill recently recommended that 80 percent of fines and penalties eventually levied against responsible parties, a number that will likely be in the billions of dollars, be dedicated to Gulf Coast restoration.
Casi Callaway, executive director of the environmental group Mobile Baykeeper, said the spill's aftermath could have a bright spot: More money dedicated to wetlands projects and other efforts.
"The oil disaster was big, the biggest environmental disaster in our country," Callaway said. "But what we have with these ideas is an opportunity to create some of the biggest environmental restoration projects in our country."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Oil Spill Commission Final Report: Catfish Responds

Oil Spill Commission Final Report: Catfish Responds

A Video by Kindra Arnesen

This is the highlight of the public response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Commission's final report. January 12th 2 members of the commission, after presenting their findings to the president, revealed their conclusions directly to some of those affected by the disaster.

To Watch the entire Oil Spill presentation &/or download the documents, go here

This video was filmed by Kindra Arnesen and produced by FluxRostrum.
This is the 1st installment of what will become a feature length documentary titled

perspective's on Gulf Coast Disaster w/ Kindra Arnesen

full EisE play list @

Mr. Obama, you have been called out!

Hard-hitting Letter from Louisiana Senator to Obama Regarding COREXIT Poisoning of the Gulf

The Honorable Barack Obama
The President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Re: The environmental impact of dispersing Corexit during and after the oil spill
Dear Mr. President;
The BP incident in the Gulf of Mexico has now been acknowledged as the greatest manmade disaster in history but there is yet another manmade disaster that must not be overlooked and has not been adequately addressed in the recently released report of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
That second major disaster has been caused by the unnecessary use of the toxin Corexit dispersant. In early May of 2010 just after the crisis began, I requested that our Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell use whatever legal means were necessary to stop the use of this toxin. Shortly thereafter, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal requested that the use of this toxic dispersant be discontinued because of the long-term environmental damage. And still later, it was reported in the media that you also ordered BP to stop using Corexit. Surprisingly, I also read in the media that they even refused your request.
Mr. President, my concern is that this toxic and damaging chemical is still being used and it will compound the long-term damage to our state, our citizens, our eco-system, our economy, our seafood industry, our wildlife and our culture.
I am well aware that our emphasis, resources and energy is currently engaged working through the administrative and legal proceedings of the oil disaster but we must also recognize and begin the same process to address the damage Corexit has done and will continue to do as we go forward.
As the State Senator for District 1 in the southeastern corner of the State of Louisiana representing the parishes of St. Tammany, St. Bernard, Orleans and Plaquemines, I respectfully request that you have your administrative officials provide the information requested in this letter. I need to make that information available to my constituents who are seeing their lives and lands threatened and their way of life hanging in the balance. Due to the threats to public safety and ecological realities, I am compelled to write this letter requesting answers to my questions regarding the role of the United States Government in administering the response to the crises in the Gulf. It is apparent that the response directed by our government was inadequate because it allowed the use of Corexit dispersants which increased the toxicity level of the spilled oil and delivered no substantial benefit.
Corexit dispersants increased the toxicity of the oil itself when the two were mixed together. Its use caused the cross contamination of the Gulf water column by forcing the transfer of the surface oil downward through the water column, causing the oil to sink to the Gulf floor. The result was an unnecessary elevated negative impact as this same oil moved ashore later to the tidal zones delivering toxic weathered oil to coastal residents, tourists and businesses and workers in the Gulf region.
Government officials stated over and over that the use of the dispersants was designed to break up the oil into smaller digestible parts to be consumed by the sub-sea living micro-organisms. This strategy is unsubstantiated. In fact, the Corexit dispersant created the opposite results since Corexit contains toxic ingredients which act as biocides to prevent microbial digestion of the oil. Physical evidence supports that the entire response administered by government agencies have been inadequate.
Independent scientists have reported the waters and our shores of the Gulf are toxic. It has been reported that the toxins in the Gulf waters are directly linked to the distribution of dispersants (Corexit 9500 and 9527A) introduced this summer (and since then) during the BP disaster. It has not all evaporated (gassed off) or digested by the microbes and the remaining contamination needs to be cleaned up and not hidden so that the toxins can be removed quickly from our Gulf for the safety of our citizens and to allow what remaining species of sea and wild life to recover; if at all possible.
Immediately following the accident, I spent a great deal of time researching this issue and met with numerous eminently qualified scientists and professionals with the hope of being able to save our coastal zone with the use of “bio-friendly” oil dispersants which I learned was available, safer, non-toxic and proven to be effective.
Today, 9 months after the accident, there is still no plan by the United States Government to clean up the toxin Corexit. Many are concerned that the oil laced with this toxic dispersant is still in the Gulf being moved constantly by currents throughout the ecosystem spreading contamination.
It is well known by many reputable scientists and environmental watchdog groups that non-toxic bio-remediation products, such as “OSE-II” was and is available. It has been used all over the world by many countries, contractors, private industry and the United States military and has been proven to be a safe solution in the past. Moreover, these types of products possess unique properties such as hydraulic lift (causes oil to float) so that the sunken oil can be raised from the sediments and detoxified.
I believe that the officials at the BP science labs have been disingenuous about their supposed desire to protect the aquiculture of the Gulf and the livelihood of the families who harvest the fisheries of the Gulf, in that they have intentionally excluded safe, non-toxic and proven bio-remediation technology to clean up the oil and toxins. BP’s refusal to use bio-remediation products to restore Gulf waters to pre-spill conditions is very disturbing to me since the EPA and USCG has approved bio-remediation for the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska years ago. BP has also used non-toxic bio-remediation technology in the Caribbean and in Africa. RPT 6 of the EPA has used OSE-II in U.S. waters as well.
Was the toxin Corexit used because it dropped the oil from the surface so it would appear that the problem was solved? Was it ever discussed that the dropping of the oil would render the huge undertaking of placing booms useless? The earthen berms called for by Plaquemines Parish President Nungesser and Governor Jindal was our only defense after the use of Corexit was employed as we witnessed in disbelief oil coming to our shores under the booms.
Please have your administration provide answers to the following questions.
1. Have acutely toxic chemical compounds been formed by the mixing of Gulf crude with toxic dispersants (Corexit 9500 and 9527A) applied individually or in a mixed ratio? If such chemicals have been mixed, please provide the ratios and provide the names of the other chemicals with which Corexit was mixed.
2. Other acutely toxic compounds have been found in the air, water, and sediments in the Gulf. Have they evaporated off with the aid of dispersants? Have your scientist reported that these compounds have come ashore, contaminating our coastal communities?
3. Is the oil spilled truly cleaned up, or has it been transformed through the evaporation and loss of lighter-chain hydrocarbons, leaving the heavier, longer-chain hydrocarbons in the water and sediments to continue delivering toxins to those exposed to them through time, which includes all the aquatic life within the Gulf waters?
4. What levels of toxins can humans safely tolerate if these toxins are taken in either by ingestion or by direct exposure from the air or water?
5. Are the Gulf waters safe? If so, define “safe.” Please define the test methods used to determine water quality and safety to assist independent scientists to verify these results.
6. Is Gulf seafood safe? If so, define “safe.” Please define the test methods used to determine safety to assist independent scientists to verify these results. The independent smell test by the USDA has on occasion proven to be inaccurate. What test equipment is being employed? USDA Director Steve Wilson will not declare verbally.
7. Were our Gulf waters safe prior to the recent 4,200 square mile ban by NOAA? If so, when? Please describe the testing methods and proof that it was safe. Where are the test data and a description of test methods that proved it was safe? What tests or methods were used to prove it was unsafe?
8. Have our Gulf onshore breezes been safe, specifically from May/June and from 2010 to present? Environmental monitoring by the federal government has surely occurred since the accident and test results as well as a description of test methods and findings should be available by now. Much is still missing in this area of data on numerous agency web sites. Please provide them. Independent scientists have reported the presence of PAH’s, 2-butoxy-ethanol and other toxic compounds in the air and in onshore rainfall. Please provide any data available on this issue, including their effects on humans, and confirm if the public should be concerned about bio-accumulation in commercial seafood or not. If indeed there is any risk of bio-accumulation, then know that it is possible to detoxify the soil and ground water, if necessary. Both NOAA and the EPA data together with some of BP’s data are contradictory within their own summations. We just need transparency regarding these issues.
9. What is the impact of prolonged exposure to these chemicals on humans in terms of toxicity and illness? What are the symptoms associated with various exposures? I ask this because in the Exxon-Valdez accident, it has been reported that all who participated in the clean up activity died within 20+ years of the accident. Understanding the chemical characteristics of the toxins used and mixed with the oil is important.
10. With respect to water samples taken by EPA and NOAA, please provide the test data and a description of test methods regarding poly-propanol, 2-butoxy ethanol, ethylene glycol, total hydrocarbons and PAH’s in the water column, not just the surface waters. Reports of chemicals in the water melting the plastics or rubber products such as diving suits and gasket seals have been reported and documented. Also, fishermen have discovered the bottoms of their crab traps dissolved or were heavily coated with rubbery tar-type oil.
11. Does the toxic effects of the dispersant Corexit 9500/9527A mixed with light sweet crude confirm that the toxicity level is increased for living organisms?
Understanding that bacteria are living organisms, I have yet to discover any definitive proof that natural bio-remediation of the weathered oil is possible by using Corexit. The claims by EPA officials and Coast Guard personnel have been confirmed to be false since 1992 (EPA/NETAC Test 1992). This is critical because it is apparent that the toxin Corexit administered did nothing but drop and hide the oil allowing for vast amounts of oil and toxins to be released well below the surface in to the water columns and the food chain. Further, it has been suggested that the toxicity level may increase with time after a spill. There is definitive proof that natural bio-remediation was a viable alternative for use at the time of the disaster and that it can still be used after the natural crude has been dispersed. It is still possible to clean up the water, the coastal lands, the marsh grass areas, the sandy beaches, the water column and the oil on the Gulf floor. EPA has approved bio-remediation products on the NCP list such as OSE-II that can raise the sunken oil to the surface for a safe natural conversion to CO2 and water which will detoxify the water column and restore the Gulf waters to pre-spill conditions. It was recommended for use in the clean up effort by the USCG Testing lab on July 10, 2010 to the FOSC (Federal on Scene Coordinator), however no action was taken. For unknown reasons, the EPA has blocked its use and continues to deny requests for use by both BP and the Louisiana DEQ.
Today in Louisiana and the other affected Gulf states, the health and welfare of our citizens, public safety, economic pain and environmental unknowns exist and the time to address this critical issue is now.
We will not be fooled in to believing that the oil and the toxins are gone. Because the toxic dispersants have been, and are still being used today, the oil is being forced downward in to the water columns and then carried endlessly around and about by the Gulf currents adversely affecting our environment.
On behalf of the citizens of all of the states on the Gulf coast, I strongly urge you to employ all of the resources you have available to guarantee a safe and healthy future for those of us in the Gulf coast states by joining with us to make sure safe non-toxic bio-remediation technology is put in to use immediately.
It is my sincere hope that this request is answered in a timely fashion so that I can advise my constituents.
I appreciate your understanding and cooperation in this matter.
A.G. Crowe
State Senator
District 1
State of Louisiana
cc: Vice President Biden: Vice President of the United States of America
Dept of Environmental Protection Agency: (Secretary Lisa. P. Jackson, Dana Tullis, Sam Coleman, Craig Carroll, Gregory J Wilson
Dept. of Defense: (Robert Gates)
Members of the Joint Chiefs: Secretary of the Navy / Secretary of the Army
(US Coast Guard) Incident Commander Ret. Admiral Thad Allen,
Adm. James A Watson, Adm. Mary E Landry, Adm. Paul Zunkunft)
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UA gets funds for spill impact study

18 researchers awarded total of $800,000

The Associated Press
Workers operate a Sand Shark cleaning device in Orange Beach in November. University of Alabama researchers have been awarded about $800,000 in grants to research the impact of the Gulf oil spill from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab near Mobile.
By Wayne Grayson Staff Writer
Published: Monday, January 24, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 10:56 p.m.
In Julie Olson’s 10 years at the University of Alabama, she’s had a lot of experience with the state’s Marine Environmental Science Consortium.
The consortium is composed of 22 Alabama four-year colleges and universities and is based at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab near Mobile.
“Ever since I’ve been at the university, my work with the consortium has been restricted to educational opportunities,” said Olson, associate professor of biological sciences at UA.
But Olson said last spring’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill may bring the group back to the work it was originally intended to do.
Olson is one of 18 UA researchers awarded a combined total of about $800,000 from BP to research the impact of the Gulf oil spill, with colleagues from colleges and universities across the state.
In the wake of the oil spill in April, BP pledged $500 million to the Gulf Research Initiative Open Research Program. Of that amount, $5 million was designated as rapid response funds for the consortium.
“And this project will be novel in that it’s one of the first times that we’re bringing the intellectual power in the state of Alabama together to address a problem,” Olson said.
The 18 UA researchers represent the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Human and Environmental Sciences, and they will take part in eight separate research projects. Working alongside them will be researchers from Auburn and Troy universities, along with the universities of Alabama at Birmingham, Alabama at Huntsville, South Alabama and others.

Joe Benson, UA’s vice president for research, said once the research paid for by the $800,000 begins, UA will have about $1.1 million worth of research taking place related to the oil spill. Three other research projects are already under way thanks to $300,000 from the National Science Foundation.
Part of the research is computer science research on the oil spill implementing cloud computing. Another part is studying the accelerating degradation of biocarbons and the third is looking at starlet sea anemones as an indicator species for assessing impacts of molecular and physiological impacts of the spill, Benson said.
Olson and her team will focus their research on assessing the impact of oil and dispersant on marine sponges and the tiny creatures that live inside them.
Because 24,000 liters of sea water are filtered per kilogram of marine sponge per day, Olson said the creatures are the perfect specimen for monitoring the effects of the oil spill on sea life.
“They’re filtering massive amounts of water on a daily basis,” she said. “Fishes may be exposed to the oil as well, but the odds of us seeing any effects from their exposure in the short term are slim.
“Because sponges will see large quantities of water mixed with oil and dispersant over a short amount of time, we’ll see things more immediately.”
Olson said she and her team aren’t sure what to expect of their findings.
“It’s one of those things that’s kind of open-ended because nobody knows a lot about how invertebrates respond to an oil spill,” she said. “Most of our studies have focused on fishes, or dolphins or pelicans or turtles. We don’t really know how the sponges change.”
Benson said the university hopes the money from BP evolves into a larger project in the next few years.
“This really represents a first-year allocation,” Benson said. “In the best case scenario, this would be year one of a five-year project period. There will be proposals for year two at the end of December.”

Benson said next year’s funding will be peer reviewed at the national level, which will require UA researchers to assemble the strongest possible research teams.
“That means they’ll have to look outside the state of Alabama for team members and even internationally,” he said. “So our faculty are currently working on not only identifying research projects (for the next year) but also putting together the strongest possible research team to carry it out.”

Gulf Coast fighting for recompense

Gulf Coast fighting for recompense
Residents and fishermen outraged as BP's compensation fund administrator denies 'loss of income' claims.
Last Modified: 21 Jan 2011 19:08 GMT

Gulf Coast businesses are closing down as they fail to secure compensation payouts [Photo: Erika Blumenfeld]
"I just got off the phone with Feinberg's people and I'm really upset," says seafood merchant Michelle Chauncey from Barataria, Louisiana.
Her business, which sells wholesale and retail crabs, has not provided her with an income since the end of May, and her home is being foreclosed.
Attorney Kenneth Feinberg's Washington-based firm, Feinberg Rozen, has been paid $850,000 a month by BP to administer a $20bn compensation fund and claims process for Gulf residents and fishermen affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion last April.

The Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), which Feinberg manages, was set up after negotiations between BP and the Obama administration, but over recent months there has been growing concern among the Coast's residents that Feinberg is limiting compensation funds to claimants in order to decrease BP's liability.

Late last month, Feinberg told Bloomberg Television that he anticipates that about half of the $20bn fund should be enough to cover claims for economic losses.
"It remains to be seen, but I would hope that half that money would be more than enough to pay all the claims," he said.
Grade F
Chauncey is angry.
"[Kenneth] Feinberg told me personally I had a legitimate claim, and that he was going to personally look into my claim and see why I wasn't being paid," she explains, adding that one of Feinberg's colleagues gave her his personal number and promised to help.

"I told Feinberg's man that I know strippers who have gotten money. So if I took off my clothes ... and worked in a bar, I'd have been paid, but since I have a seafood business I haven't been paid.

"The really sad part is that my story is not isolated," Chauncey adds. "There are loads of us, and they are all in the same predicament as I am."
Rudy Toler from Gulfport, Mississippi is a fourth generation fisherman. He submitted 62 pages of documentation to the GCCF, but says: "My claim got denied on December 4, with about 100,000 other people."

The GCCF, which also covers cleanup and remediation costs, has received more than 468,000 claims and has paid about $2.7bn to approximately 170,000 claimants (about one-third of those who have submitted claims) in the last four months.
Most of the claims that have been paid are temporary emergency payments.
"You've paid 30 per cent of the claims," Gulf Shores City councilman Jason Dyken told Feinberg at a recent meeting in Gulf Shores, Alabama. "Seventy per cent of the claims have not been paid. Where I went to school that's an 'F'."
The amount paid out averages nearly $16,000 per claimant. But according to the US department of health and human services, the 2009 poverty threshold for a family of three was $18,310.
With mounting problems from an escalating health crisis and decimated fishing and tourist industries, many consider this an inadequate amount of compensation for their loss of livelihood.
Feinberg has recently been on a tour of the Gulf Coast, holding public forums where he has often been faced with throngs of enraged residents and fishermen.
While Feinberg admits that mistakes have been made in processing claims, he has also said that many claims lack sufficient documentation to warrant payment.
"I'm trying to do the right thing," Feinberg has said. "This is an unprecedented job. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of claims. But we're getting through them, and the money is going out."
During his recent visit to the Gulf, Feinberg said: "I will bend over backwards to pay claims." But large numbers of Gulf residents and fishermen beg to differ.
"Last week I spoke up at the Town Hall meeting in Bay St. Louis, and Feinberg told me to give him my number and information and he would personally take care of it," Toler says. "Here it is a week later and I've not heard from him. You can't get answers from nobody. Nobody. Now, I'm 15 days past due on my rent. It don't seem right to me."
Like Chauncey, Toler is angered by seeing residents who are not directly involved in the seafood industry being awarded compensation cheques, while those who are have their claims denied.
"It's very frustrating," he says. "They say on the news they are going to help the fishermen and the people who deserve it while we aren't getting the help, but the people at Burger King and other stores are getting paid."
Circumventing US law?
Feinberg's claims operation is now offering three options to claimants:
• Final settlements for all present and future damages that require the claimant to agree not to seek future compensation or sue anyone involved in last year's oil spill.
• Smaller interim claims that do not require a lawsuit waiver.
• Quick payments of $5,000 for individuals or $25,000 for businesses that require a lawsuit waiver but, unlike final or interim payments, do not call for financial documentation. Only those approved last year for emergency claims can take a quick payment.
Attorney Brian Donovan, with the Donovan Law Group in Tampa, Florida, believes Feinberg is simply doing what he is being paid by BP to do.

"He's doing his job," Donovan says. "Feinberg is a defence attorney representing BP. To think otherwise is being foolish. As a defence attorney, he's doing a great job for BP. But they are saying 'go with us, or sue us'."

Donovan has written: "In lieu of ensuring that BP oil spill victims are made whole, the primary goal of GCCF and Feinberg is the limitation of BP's liability via the systematic postponement, reduction and denial of claims against BP. Victims of the BP oil spill must understand that 'Administrator' Feinberg is merely a defence attorney zealously advocating on behalf of his client BP."

Contrary to what Feinberg is telling claim applicants, according to Donovan, under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990, a victim of the BP oil spill must first present a claim for damages to BP/GCCF and wait 90 days. If he or she is not paid, or accepts a lesser amount, that does not preclude the victim from pursuing future compensation. In addition, the GCCF/Feinberg requirement that a claimant sign a general release of all rights and claims is contrary to the OPA.
The OPA, signed into law in 1990, provided the statutory authorisation and funding necessary for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF). The National Pollution Funds Centre (NPFC), an administrative agency of the US coast guard (USCG), manages OSLTF and acts as the implementing agency of OPA.

Since 2003, USCG has operated in the department of homeland security. A primary purpose of OSLTF is to compensate persons for removal costs and damages resulting from an oil spill incident. In essence, OSLTF is an insurance policy, or backstop, for victims of an oil spill incident who are not fully compensated by the responsible party.
"If the OSLTF was used as it was intended by OPA, when BP/GCCF does not pay a claim, the victim presents the claim to OSLTF," explains Donavan. "At that point, OSLTF pays the victim and then the US attorney general, at the request of the secretary of the department of homeland security, shall commence an action on behalf of OSLTF against BP and collect the amount from BP. That's how it is written."
Donovan believes that these laws are being ignored for political reasons.
BP created the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust (DHOST) on August 6, 2010.
"The fact that, pursuant to the DHOST agreement, future production payments pertaining to BP's US oil and natural gas production, rather than hard US assets, are being used as collateral by BP, guarantees BP's continued long-term operation in the offshore Gulf of Mexico," Donovan says. "Ironically, the federal government has acquired a vested interest in ensuring the financial well-being of BP."
While Donovan's firm has been largely successful in assisting its clients in obtaining their settlements, he says: "I'm sure down the road we're going to have to file suit. I don't doubt that."
'Every trick in the book'
Karen Hopkins, a Louisiana seafood worker, is calling for Feinberg to resign [Photo: Erika Blumenfeld]
The criticism from angry residents, business owners and fishermen of Feinberg's handling of the GCCF has mounted over the months, and now seems to be at a fever pitch.
At a January 10, meeting in Grand Isle, Louisiana, resident and seafood worker Karen Hopkins handed Feinberg a petition, which now has nearly 800 signatures, demanding his resignation.
"We need him to pay us the money that the company he's working for owes us," Hopkins says. "He's not working for our interests. He's working to save as much of that fund for BP as he can. If he was here to serve us, he'd give us a plan for long-term testing for the chemicals they've poisoned us with."
The chemicals Hopkins referenced are the at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic dispersants BP has used to sink the oil from sight.
At the same meeting, Feinberg said: "We've paid out $1bn in Louisiana alone. Somebody's getting money. It might be the wrong people, but somebody's getting money."
Hopkins, who works for a large seafood company, says every person who complains to Feinberg about their claim is told "to leave him his claim number and he'll look into it".

"I know loads of fishermen who have never been paid one dime for emergency payments. Not one thin dime. He doesn't understand our culture, or the damage this has done to our way of life," she says.
Hopkins believes Feinberg is pressuring people to take the smaller, immediate payments, rather than pursue litigation in order to obtain appropriate levels of compensation.
"He's saying to opt in to the fund, you'll come out with more money than if you litigate this," she says. "He's scaring these people. He's not our lawyer. But he's basically saying if you try to sue us, we'll f*** you up. He's condescending. He's completely crooked and corrupt. He's trying to pull every trick in the book on us."
'Lives are being destroyed'
Cherri Foytlin has been speaking out against the injustice she sees in the wake of the spill [Photo: Erika Blumenfeld]
The lack of compensation payouts is afflicting people across the Gulf Coast.
"Most of the people I care about are hungry, they've lost their house, they're losing their cars," says Cherri Foytlin, the co-founder of Gulf Change, a community organisation in Louisiana.

"I've met so many people over the last three days who've had red beans and rice for Christmas while this man's firm is getting $850,000 a month for this. I saw people on their knees in these meetings begging this man. I don't know how he sleeps at night. He takes money from BP and claims to represent and care about people in the Gulf."
Lorrie Williams fishes crab from Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Her 11-year-old son has been sick for months with symptoms she blames on toxic chemicals related to the oil spill. Her son's blood tested positive for several of the chemicals in BP's crude oil.
"My concern is not a claim, or money, but finding somebody who is going to treat my son, and other sick people," she says. "For Feinberg to tell me to file a claim, what am I filing for? To get $5,000 since I'm sick? My fear is that in five years my child is going to have cancer. Or my husband or I will pass away and not be here to care for my child."
Kathy Birrin and her husband are financial partners in their seafood business in Hernando Beach, Florida, each owning half of the company. They both filed identical personal claims for their portion of the business' lost income to the same claims officer.
"They paid my personal claim in 10 days, but my husband's was denied six weeks later," Birrin says. "In Florida we're watching them pay strippers and waitresses, while they are denying commercial fishermen's claims. I'm hearing this same thing in all the meetings I'm attending in all four states."
Birrin describes the situation in her area of Florida as a "disaster" and adds: "Our fish are not there this year. We're way, way, way down from what we usually have. People's lives are being destroyed."
Teresa Abraham also lives in Florida, where she has a publishing business that prints tourism related material.
"Most of my clients can't pay me because they've not been paid by BP," she says. "I filed for loss of income, and of course my emergency payment was denied, like everyone else I know who's filed."
Abraham explains that Feinberg promised Florida senator Bill Nelson he would personally look at Abraham's claim, but she adds: "He didn't look at it, and it looks like I may very well go out of business in the next few weeks."
Abraham, who has been in business for 15 years, feels strongly about the way Feinberg is handling the GCCF.
"He's a self-appointed tsar and doesn't answer to anybody," she says.

"My business is down 50 per cent. People are losing their businesses. This is happening now. They are not paying claims to businesses that are desperate. This is extremely frustrating. Nobody has any jurisdiction over this guy, so there's nobody we can go to."
Al Jazeera

Sunday, January 23, 2011

BP's Promise Versus What BP Really Means: Some Insights on Making People Hole (Whole) and Just Us (Justice) in the Gulf

Fron Huffington Post

BP's Promise Versus What BP Really Means: Some Insights on Making People Hole (Whole) and Just Us (Justice) in the Gulf

Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. When Louisiana fisherman Michelle Chauncy called the BP claim office (Kenneth Fineberg's Gulf Coast Claims Facility) last Friday to check on the status of her claim for Michelle's Crab Shack, the office couldn't find her claim. It had vanished.
Michelle had filed her claim in October along with bank statements and records to support the loss of her wholesale/retail crab business of eighteen years. BP/Fineberg denied her claim in November and, because it was under $250,000, she couldn't appeal.
According to BP/Fineberg's rules, the little claims that support thousands of little businesses across the Gulf are too bothersome to deal with; many are simply being dropped. The Fineberg claims process manifests BP's disregard of the "small people living in the Gulf," so-called by BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg.
Michelle had appealed her claim anyway, because she had no other choice. After a night of stewing on her dilemma, she called the BP claim office again on Saturday as our car caravan prepared to move to Fort Walton to meet with the next group of community liaisons. Our small group was sharing information and coordinating efforts to deal BP's "Making It Right," or as it's known in the Gulf, "Making It Disappear" campaign.
Florida fisherman Kathy Birren's daughter, eight-year-old Mandy Birren, had tried to cheer the normally vivacious Michelle as we loaded the cars. Michelle apologized to the child, explaining that she was aggravated. "Everyone who talks to them gets aggravated," said Mandy, who had already seen and heard too much for being only eight.
Mandy's parents, Kathy and Ron, filed damage claims for their Hernando Beach Seafood business in November. BP/Fineberg denied their business claim and Ron's personal claim, but paid Kathy's claim, even though their personal claims were exactly identical. BP/Fineberg also denied the personal and business claims of Louisiana shrimp fishermen Tracy Kuhns, who was part of our caravan, and her husband. The blatant unfairness of the process, the helplessness of the situation, and the growing family debt, were sledgehammers of stress, pounding on both Tracy's and Kathy's marriages.
As a plaintiff in the Exxon Valdez case, I experienced first-hand this same treatment by Exxon and the U.S. "justice" system. For twenty years, Exxon, then ExxonMobil, used its billions to manipulate the legal system to ultimately deny justice for 22,000 claimants -- and thousands of others whose legitimate spill losses had been discarded on legal technicalities before trial. Instead of making us "whole," ExxonMobil had made us "hole," leaving a trail of broken marriages, suicides, lost livelihoods, foreclosures, bankruptcies, and insurmountable debt. In the process, ExxonMobil had saved its shareholders billions of dollars. Since the process had worked so well for ExxonMobil, BP was now repeating it -- including using a U.S. government-sanctioned process as cover for legitimacy.
During the drive to Fort Walton, I rode with Michelle to spare the children. Southern gentility has its limits. "You don't understand," Michelle firmly told the claims person. "I have been on my own since I was sixteen. I would gladly have worked for this money. You are forcing me to beg for a handout. I can't pay my bills. I am losing my home; I am losing my business; and I am about to lost my mind!"
An hour later, as we pulled into Fort Walton, a Fineberg supervisor informed Michelle that her claim had suddenly been found. When Michelle hung up, she looked at me. "I need a good drink," she said.
Instead, we joined the next gathering. There, as in other communities along our coastal route, people's concerns about their Fineberg claims, personal and family health issues, and seafood safety all tossed together in an unlikely mix. But the concerns all hinged on BP's massive release of oil and dispersants into the Gulf: People couldn't pay for medical expenses (many weren't even seeking treatment) because they had no money -- their BP claims had been denied or stalled; people couldn't afford to move out of harms way, even though they believed their families were suffering and ill from the dispersant use in coastal areas; and if dispersants were making people sick, what was it doing to seafood and why were fisheries opened?
It turns out that dispersants are not -- and never were -- explicitly banned within three miles of the coast or in less than ten meters of water (the "nearshore environment") as federal officials with the USCG, EPA, NOAA, and others staunchly maintained. The Coast Guard and states can approve dispersant use in the nearshore environment on a case-by-case basis across the Gulf if the incident commander decides the toxic chemicals were "expected to prevent or minimize substantial threat to the public health or welfare, or to mitigate or prevent environmental damage" -- a statement that appears in both of the official Regional Response Team dispersant policies. In fact, neither of the policies for Region IV (Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida) or Region VI (Louisiana) have any areas where dispersant use is expressly banned. Louisiana even has an expedited process for requests to spray dispersants in the nearshore environment.

Planes fly at night over beach-front homes, spraying chemicals that made Lorrie Williams and her child sick. Lorrie Williams, Davis Bayou, MS October 2010.
When it comes to oil, the Coast Guard's priority is to "remove it" -- not assess impacts on the ecosystem or human health. And they have tried to remove it -- from the open Gulf all the way to the coasts and bayous.
The Louisiana Bayoukeeper has requested that the State of Louisiana provide documentation of dispersant spraying and experimental release of bio-engineered bacteria in nearshore areas under the Freedom of Information Act. Organizations in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida would be wise to do the same. This information is critical for understanding health and ecological impacts as well as economic harm.
BP's oil mixed with Corexit fluoresces bright orange at night under high-powered ultra-violet lights, revealing areas where beach sand is coated with the mixture that is invisible under daylight conditions. Photo by Rip Kirby.