Peltier column: BP will be held accountable, Marco Rubio says

MICHAEL PELTIER

— Federal and state officials will hold BP’s feet to the fire to fully compensate victims of the Deepwater Horizon spill, a key U.S. senator pledged last week, a year after the well was successfully capped.

Days after BP sent a memo to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility saying the region has rebounded and many payments for future losses should be suspended, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said the company needs to honor its promise to make the region whole following the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Rubio, a Florida Republican, said he’s concerned by the memo sent July 7 to the GCCF, especially since the effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill may not be fully realized for several years.

“BP, from a corporate perspective, is trying to get out of here as quickly as they can,” Rubio said. “They are trying to disengage from this process as soon as they can and I think it is incumbent on us policy-makers to make sure that doesn’t happen and that BP fulfills its obligations to this region.”

After paying more than $4.6 billion to private citizens and businesses since the April 20, 2010, spill, BP officials have told federal overseers the Gulf coast economy is mostly back on its feet and therefore the company should not have to pay for most new losses going forward.

In a letter sent last week to the GCCF, which has been set up to reimburse people and businesses for spill-related costs, BP says claims for continuing damage should be limited to a small minority of applicants such as oyster harvesters whose businesses have yet to rebound.

With resurgence in tourism back to the region, BP said the spill’s effects are largely over for the region that relies on the Gulf of Mexico for much of its livelihood.

“This does not mean that BP believes substantiated claims for future losses should not be paid; it means that BP believes there is no basis to automatically assume that most claimants ….will incur any future loss related to the oil spill,” BP spokesman Craig Savage said.

Under the direction of Ken Fienberg, the agency has distributed more than $4.6 billion on nearly all claims. Overall, the facility has received more than 502,000 claims.

Rubio travelled to Pensacola last week on behalf of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, which is expected to craft federal legislation to divvy up fines expected to be paid by BP under the federal Clean Water Act. An initial hearing on the matter could come this week, Rubio said, but any proposed legislation is still several weeks, possibly months away.

“I would tell people to take a deep breath because everything in Washington moves very slow and I don’t have any reason to believe that this won’t be the case here as well,” Rubio said.

Email Michael Peltier at mpeltier1234@comcast.net.

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