Oil spill claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg marked the one-year anniversary of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility by saying the fund has at least looked at 97 percent of the claims it has received.
In other words, he said, the fund is now “current,” and anyone still calling his process slow or delay-ridden (a common complaint in the fund’s early days) “just isn’t looking at the statistics.”
To date, the fund has paid out some $5 billion, including slightly more than $2 billion to Florida — more than any other state.
Of some 131,794 Florida claimants in the fund’s post-emergency phase, 72,446 have received final payments and waived their right to sue BP. Only 4,405 remain under review. Feinberg said those were largely from claimants who had failed in the past few months.
He cited several reasons for Florida’s high share of the overall payouts. For one thing, Florida has a larger population and a longer coastline than the other states. For another, its claims were concentrated more heavily in the tourism sector — which included many “indirect” losses due to false perceptions of oil-soaked beaches far from where oil actually came ashore. The fund’s treatment of those claims was a hotly contested issue during the fund’s first few months.
Feinberg was ultimately persuaded by critics, including then-Attorney General Bill McCollum and representatives of the state’s tourism industry, to entertain claims from parts of the state where tourism suffered due to the perception of oil on the beaches.
The fund recently tightened requirements for people who continue to seek interim payments, which don’t require them to waive their right to sue. Feinberg said the changes were intended to ensure they were claiming losses that were tied to the spill, and not a languishing economy.
He said his ultimate goal was to ensure that 90 percent of claimants receive satisfaction from his fund, and thus avoid resorting to litigation.
So far, BP has paid out a total of $6.7 billion, including the payments through the fund and another $1.7 billion for government claims and clean-up costs, Feinberg said. The company has planned to set aside up to $20 billion to compensate for losses stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.