+ Why hasn’t the spill been much of a factor in midterm elections? Fred Grimm wonders. Andrew Restuccia offers a few explanations.
+ Federal officials continue to defend seafood testing procedures, which have found that samples taken from the gulf are overwhelmingly free of oil and dispersant.
+ Alabama officials are working to make the state’s Gulf Coast economically and environmentally “resilient” against future spills.
+ After a flood of claims earlier this month, payments have slowed and new requests are pouring in. More after the jump.
+ Restuccia relays the story of one Florida business frustrated by the process.
+ The Pensacola Business Journal interviews Brian Barr, a local member of the executive council of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for oil spill victims preparing lawsuits against BP and other responsible companies.
Barr explains some of the considerations claimants have to weigh as they navigate the process.
The reporter leads with this question:
Q: Ken Feinberg, administrator of the $20 billion fund created to avoid oil spill lawsuits, said Wednesday he will offer settlements by Nov. 23 to claimants to pay damages caused by the Gulf spill. But the offer comes with a catch: Claimants have to agree not to sue BP or any of the other defendants. What’s your take on Feinberg’s announcement?
A: I haven’t had a lot of time to digest it, but I suspected it was coming. My gut reaction is that until people determine exactly what their damages are, I certainly wouldn’t recommend they agree to a final settlement. The best thing to do right now is for claimants to continue with their emergency process and not file a final claim on or after Nov. 23. You could be selling yourself short, including giving up the right to share in any punitive damages awarded down the road.
That was Feinberg’s initial plan. But since then, under pressure from officials from Florida and elsewhere, he’s become increasingly amenable to the idea that claimants should be able to return to the fund after Nov. 23 for interim payments — perhaps in three-month installments — that would not require them to waive their right to sue BP.
Last week, Feinberg told Florida’s oil spill task force he thinks that idea “makes sense,” but the final protocol for those claims won’t be released until sometime next month (though a draft is likely to be circulated to officials around the Gulf Coast, perhaps as early as this week).