+ The oil spill is now 100 days old (media people love anniversaries), and only 40 of the “crucial 100 days” for Florida tourism (between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends) remain.
+ Mental health claims from the oil spill probably won’t be paid, according to little-reported testimony federal claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg gave last week.
+ Feinberg was in Florida today, testifying before Gov. Charlie Crist’s economic recovery task force (more after the jump).
+ Crist’s pro-bono oil spill counsel is shoveling campaign cash into the governor’s 527 groups.
+ BP faces a “wide-ranging” criminal probe that could include everything from falsifying test results to polluting the Gulf of Mexico (more after the jump).
Feinberg: “Make your case” in BP claims process
This was supposed to be the year that Florida tourism recovered after languishing through two years of recessions. The oil spill changed all that and added to the suffering of the state’s fishing industry.
Speaking today before the Gulf Oil Spill Economic Recovery Task Force, federal claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg, who’s tasked with making the affected businesses and workers whole, said that handling the “indirect” claims of businesses that didn’t have oil on their beaches or documented cancellations would be especially difficult.
For example, an Orlando hotel that attracted fewer visitors than in recent summers might get compensated for a portion of its losses, he said. But he acknowledged that it would be hard to tell where to draw the line.
He stressed the importance of documenting losses. Ultimately, it will be up to business owners to make their case. The closer they are to the spill, the clearer their documentation, and the more their business relies on the gulf, the better their chances of getting their share of BP’s $20 billion compensation fund.
He also said he’d be returning to Florida “again and again” to keep tabs on the process. Once he was done, he received a round of applause.
BP faces criminal probe
The Washington Post uncovers new details on the wide-ranging investigation.
A team of federal investigators known as the “BP squad” is assembling in New Orleans to conduct a wide-ranging criminal probe that will focus on at least three companies and examine whether their cozy relations with federal regulators contributed to the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, according to law enforcement and other sources.
The squad at the FBI offices includes investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard and other federal agencies, the sources said. In addition to BP, the firms at the center of the inquiry are Transocean, which leased the Deepwater Horizon rig to BP, and engineering giant Halliburton, which had finished cementing the well only 20 hours before the rig exploded April 20, sources said.
While it was known that investigators are examining potential violations of environmental laws, it is now clear that they are also looking into whether company officials made false statements to regulators, obstructed justice or falsified test results for devices such as the rig’s failed blowout preventer. It is unclear whether any such evidence has surfaced.