Issue: Claims against BP
Our stance: Victims; fund may still be needed in the future
British Petroleum’s request at week’s end to stop paying economic claims to Gulf Coast residents and businesses is now under official review and may well be granted.
With the capping of the Deepwater Horizon oil well nearing its one-year anniversary, BP argues that beaches and other tourist areas are no longer being impacted by the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Coastal areas and fishing grounds have recovered, BP says, and the general economy from the wetlands of Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle has rebounded.
Sales tax and bed tax receipts — one way to judge the health of an area’s tourist industry — tend to support at least part of BP’s argument..
Loss-of-revenue claims paid to date have come from the $20 billion victims’ fund that BP was obligated to create by federal regulators.
The dollars paid out to local governments and businesses are in the hundreds of millions, but billions are left.
And, that’s good. Billions need to be held in reserve — long term.
While tourists may be visiting Panhandle beaches again and seafood lovers may be back in restaurants, the Gulf of Mexico won’t be as forgiving.
The Gulf’s ecosystem was dangerously ill long before BP’s damaged well leaked an estimated 4.9 million barrels of crude oil.
Ecological problems documented by this newspaper eight years ago are worse today and it will be years before we can assess the true damage done by the spill.
We can only hope that $20 billion — or whatever remains of the fund — will buy some solutions.