BP Plays “Hide the Liability”, re: Gulf Coast

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The explosion that destroyed Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig and sent millions of gallons of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, where it currently threatens the livelihoods of thousands who make their living off the region’s fabled seafood life, has barely been investigated by authorities who are still powerless to stop the oil spill, nevermind discern its actual cause. As such, most of what the American People need to know remains unknown–the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns, to paraphrase former SecDef “Rummy” Rumseld.

These two seemingly contradictory press releases issued through the office of Bill McCollum, the Attorney General of Florida, point to the fundamental shadiness of the whole situation. On the 4th, McCollum clearly states that Floridians should “not … sign any settlement documents from any companies or corporations” until they know the full extent of what remains inestimable damage from a spill that hasn’t fully impacted land yet. By the 6th, McCollum has spoken with British Petroleum and basically endorsed the company’s settlement efforts, even though the company had not yet legally codified the non-cap on claims.

In other words, BP may be encouraging people to make settlement claims based on early, unvetted estimates, allowing them to pay citizens off for far less than their real damages may amount to. By the time the full scope of the damage is understood, BP, Transocean, Halliburton and other culpable parties may be able to offset their expenses based on claims already paid out. And you can be sure that the relevant paperwork–which McCollum wisely advised people not to sign, at first–will contain legally-binding language a) prohibiting revealing of key details about the claim, and b) indemnifying BP against any future lawsuits by the signee, which amounts to a cap on claims.

All this will enable a coverup that began while the initial fire was still burning, a process of concealing not only the cause of an explosion that killed 11 people, but also an environmental catastrophe that may severely undermine the currently fruitless efforts to reverse the declining US economy. Note that McCollum’s flip-flop developed after a conference call that also included the Attorney Generals of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, which means BP may have already gone a long way toward protecting their interests–and that’s more than can be said for the citizens of those states.

May 4, 2010
ATTORNEY GENERAL: FLORIDIANS AFFECTED BY DEEPWATER HORIZON OIL SPILL SHOULD BE BEWARE OF FRAUD

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today issued a consumer advisory regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident, encouraging Floridians to call the Attorney General’s fraud hotline at 1-866-966-7226 to report any incidents of fraud. Earlier today, Attorney General McCollum visited the Escambia County Emergency Operations Center in Pensacola and the Deepwater Horizon Unified Area Command Center in Mobile for briefings on emergency preparedness efforts in response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Today, I witnessed first-hand the catastrophic oil spill sitting just off Florida’s coastline,” said Attorney General McCollum. “As state officials and residents prepare for the impacts the Deepwater Horizon spill is expected to bring to Florida’s sensitive coastal areas and the state’s economy, my office will continue providing as much information as possible to Floridians so they can protect themselves and their rights from various types of fraud related to this disastrous spill.”

The Attorney General McCollum also cautioned all Florida residents to not waive any rights or sign any settlement documents from any companies or corporations until they know the full extent of their loss, which may be significantly higher than the money being offered initially. The Attorney General noted that these offers could be premature or even fraudulent.

Additionally, in what could be one of the most significant environmental clean-ups in Florida’s history, Attorney General McCollum clarified that Florida statutes provide no cap on recoveries related to natural resources. During the past weekend, Attorney General McCollum met with the Attorneys General of Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi to discuss a number of legal options to ensure costs and damages to Gulf coast states, businesses and residents are recouped.

Consumers can contact the Attorney General’s Fraud Hotline by calling the Attorney at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226) or by visiting the Attorney General’s website at http://www.myfloridalegal.com. Additional information on the State Emergency Response Team’s response efforts can be found at http://www.floridadisaster.org.

May 6, 2010
ATTORNEY GENERAL: BP AMERICA PROMISES QUICK, EFFICIENT CLAIMS PROCESS WITH NO CAPS ON PAYOUT

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that the Attorneys General of the Gulf Coast states have been assured by the General Counsel of BP America that the company will memorialize its commitment to pay whatever is necessary to clean up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as well as to compensate the states and their citizens and businesses for any losses due to the spill. The Attorneys General were also provided with detailed information about the claims process for the individuals and small businesses impacted by the approaching oil spill.

“What happened at the Deepwater Horizon oil well was a tragedy, not only in that human life was lost, but also because of the devastating impacts this event will likely have on our environment and economy for years to come,” said Attorney General McCollum. “BP has assured us it will do whatever it takes to make our states and their citizens whole, and I encourage them to continue working diligently to make the claims process expedient and efficient so our citizens and businesses can see immediate relief.”

On a lengthy conference call with the Attorneys General of Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, the General Counsel for BP America outlined the action items the company would take at the request of the Attorneys General. The company will respond immediately to yesterday’s letter from the Attorneys General, memorializing the commitment to cover all costs of the incident, without regard to any potentially applicable statutory caps on recoveries. The company will also provide a written summary of the claims process to allow states to educate their citizens and businesses about how to make quick and efficient claims.

BP America has stated that checks for claims will be sent out within 48 hours of the initial claim report. Daily reports on the claims received and processed will also be provided to the states for review. The toll-free number for the Claims Line is 1-800-440-0858, and more information is available online at http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com

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