Main | Sunday, May 02, 2010

British Petroleum Is Trying To Pay Off Gulf Fishermen Over Oil Spill

The Attorney General of Alabama has ordered British Petroleum to stop distributing settlement agreements to his state's fishermen. The contracts offer each fisherman up to $5000 up front if they agree not to sue BP over their lost livelihoods due to the oil spill.
The attorney general said he is prohibited from giving legal advice to private citizens, but added that "people need to proceed with caution and understand the ramifications before signing something like that. "They should seek appropriate counsel to make sure their rights are protected," King said. By the end of Sunday, BP aimed to sign up 500 fishing boats in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida to deploy booms. BP had distributed a contract to fishermen it was hiring that waived their right to sue BP and required confidentiality and other items, sparking protests in Louisiana and elsewhere. Darren Beaudo, a spokesman for BP, said the waiver requirement had been stripped out, and that ones already signed would not be enforced. "BP will not enforce any waivers that have been signed in connection with this activity," he wrote in an e-mail. But King said late Sunday that he was still concerned that people would lose their right to sue by accepting settlements from BP of up to $5,000, as envisioned by the claim process BP has set up. He said BP's push was particularly strong in Bayou La Batre.
BP's potential liability for the disaster has been estimated (at the moment) to be as high as $7B. But don't worry, even with a 45% drop in 2009 profits, last year they still walked away $14B in the black.

UPDATE: The federal government has just banned all commercial and recreational fishing along much of the Florida and Louisiana portions of the Gulf coast.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the closure would last for at least 10 days and was aimed at keeping seafood safe. Government scientists were taking samples from waters near the spill to determine whether there is any danger. Long tendrils of oil sheen made their way into South Pass, a major channel through the salt marshes of Louisiana's southeastern bootheel that is a breeding ground for crab, oysters, shrimp, redfish and other seafood. Venice charter boat captain Bob Kenney lamented that there was no boom in the water to corral the oil, and said BP was "pretty much over their head in the deep water." "It's like a slow version of Katrina," he added. "My kids will be talking about the effect of this when they're my age."

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