Pensacola beaches “covered in oil.” NBC Nightly News (6/23, story 5, 1:50, Potter) reported Pensacola, Florida, “residents and tourists awoke to the day they hoped they would never see, with their entire beachfront covered in oil. It rolled ashore overnight and kept coming all day, pushed along by southeast winds. Skimmer boats arrived to stop it but oil still got past them. Beachgoers were shocked and saddened by what happened to the pure, white sand.”
Archive for June, 2010
ABC World News (6/23, story 8, 1:15, Gutman) reported on evidence of a “marine biologist’s doomsday scenario: sharks thrashing” in the shallow waters off Alabama. Bob Shipp, University of Southern Alabama: “What we’re really witnessing may be a shift in the whole ecosystem feeding structure, the food web.” Gutman: “Biologists say marine life is fleeing the spill zone as animals would a forest fire.” Moby Solangi, Institute for Marine Mammal Studies: “The habitat is shrinking. We have tens of thousands of square miles now affected. These animals are moving away.”
The New York Times (6/24, Lehren, Gillis) reports, “Fearing that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will deal a severe blow to the bluefin tuna, an environmental group is demanding that the government declare the fish an endangered species, setting off extensive new protections under federal law.”
Two cleanup workers have died, one apparently a suicide. The CBS Evening News (6/23, story 3, 2:40, Couric) reported, “We learned today two cleanup workers have died.” CBS (Cobiella) added, “We don’t know much. One apparently was a suicide, the other some sort of swimming accident, but neither apparently directly connected to the spill or cleanup.” The AP (6/23) reports incident commander Adm. Thad Allen “said Wednesday in Washington that one man was killed by what investigators later called a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Allen said the other worker’s death involved swimming. He would not provide more details.”
The Mobile Press-Register (6/24, Busby) reports Alabama charter boat captain William Allen Kruse shot and killed himself Wednesday morning “just before his vessel was scheduled to set out to take part in oil cleanup and protection efforts, investigators said.” Coroner Stan Vinson “said witnesses told investigators that Kruse had been upset about the loss of business caused by the closing of fishing grounds and public perceptions of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”
The Los Angeles Times (6/24, Hennessy-Fiske, Fausset) says the “apparent suicide…was a grim reminder of the mental health toll that may haunt the Gulf of Mexico region for years as industries are damaged and estuaries are despoiled by the BP oil disaster.” One charter boat captain said, “How can you deal with watching the oil kill every damn thing you ever lived for in your whole life?” The Washington Post (6/24, Hedgpeth, Fahrenthold) also reports on the apparent suicide.
The AP (6/24) reported, “To a nation frustrated by the Gulf oil spill, BP’s attempts at damage control have sometimes been infuriatingly vague. But from a legal standpoint, that’s exactly the point. With the company facing more than 200 civil lawsuits and the specter of a Justice Department investigation, saying the wrong thing could expose BP to millions of dollars in damages or even criminal charges for its executives.”
The AP (6/23) reported, “A law firm known for shareholder lawsuits on Wednesday said it is investigating whether the agents who ran BP PLC’s employee savings plan violated federal law by buying BP stock. New York-based Milberg LLP, which has sued dozens of companies on behalf of investors in many prominent companies, including scandal-plagued Enron, Worldcom and Tyco, said it is looking into whether the fiduciaries of the BP Employee Savings Plan may have violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by buying and holding on to the oil company’s shares ‘when it was imprudent to do so.’”
The Financial Times (6/24, Peel) reports that according to legal experts, a higher proportion of potential applicants to BP’s $20 billion escrow fund are likely to opt out and launch private lawsuits than occurred with the 9/11 victims’ fund. Doug Kysar of Yale Law School, for example, said he thought the found would not be “as attractive a compromise for plaintiffs in this case. There is a business case to be made for plaintiff lawyers to stay out of the fund and instead go to the courts and look for the jackpot verdict.”
Judges’ financial interests, recusals complicate lawsuits. The Los Angeles Times (6/24, Williams) reports Federal judges “in gulf states have been extensively invested in the oil and gas industries for decades, and those interests threaten to create a logjam for the 150-plus lawsuits and legal challenges prompted by the BP spill.” Seven of “the 12 federal judges of the Eastern District of Louisiana already have cited potential conflicts of interest in bowing out of cases brought by fishermen, charter operators, tourist services and families of those killed in the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.”
New York Comptroller seeks lead plaintiff status in BP litigation. The AP (6/23) reported, “New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has hired outside lawyers in an effort to become the lead plaintiff in a federal class-action lawsuit by investors against BP over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. DiNapoli, as trustee of the state’s $133 billion public employee pension fund, claims the British oil giant misled investors about the safety of its operations.”
In “The Energy Source” blog at Forbes (6/23), Christopher Helman wrote, “Philip Adams, of bond research firm Gimme Credit, took a stab at” estimating BP’s total liability for the spill “in a research note yesterday. He gets to a total of $60.9 billion by breaking up the costs into three ‘buckets.’ The first bucket is the $20 billion” escrow fund, the second “is clean-up and compensation,” and the third “fines and penalties.”
ASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- A U.S. House panel approved legislation Wednesday that would repeal a century-and-a-half-old law that Transocean Ltd. (RIG: 52.04, 0.88, 1.72%) has sought to use to limit its liability in the Gulf oilspill disaster.
The legislation also would make it easier for the families of the 11 Deepwater Horizon oil-rig victims to collect certain financial damages.
The bill would apply to both pending and future cases. The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill on a 16-11 vote, sending the measure to the full House for consideration. Two Republicans joined 14 Democrats in supporting the measure.
In another spill-related matter, the committee voted to authorize the issuing of subpoenas to BP America for documents related to the company’s claims process for victims of the gulf spill. The subpoenas will seek documents regarding the amount of reported claims that have not been paid, and for other documents related to oil-spill claims and processing.
Committee Democrats said the liability bill would offer justice to oil-spill victims and their families, while most Republicans said the bill was too broad, unnecessarily rushed and could have a variety of unintended consequences.
Transocean, the owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig, filed legal papers last month under the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 to limit its liability to just under $27 million.
Under the act, a vessel owner is liable only for the post-accident value of the vessel and cargo, so long as the owner can show he or she had no knowledge of negligence in the accident. The House bill would repeal this liability law.
BP PLC (BP, BP.LN), which leased the rig, bears most of the liability in the spill disaster.
The House legislation also would allow the families of spill victims to collect non-economic damages, such as damages for pain and suffering and loss of care and companionship. Supporters of the bill say current law only allows families to recover for economic losses such as the loss of the victim’s income and funeral expenses.
In an interesting development, one Democrat, Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina, sought to amend the bill so that it would not apply retroactively to pending cases involving the current spill. Watt questioned whether imposing the legislation retroactively was constitutional. The proposed amendment sparked verbal sparring between Watt and Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.), the committee chairman and lead sponsor of the liability legislation. Conyers said Congress has been enacting retroactive bills for a long time “and we’re not going to stop now.”
Watt’s amendment was rejected on a voice vote.
On the subpoena matter, Conyers said the panel was “not getting anywhere” getting certain documents from BP, which made the subpoenas necessary. The panel’s top Republican, Lamar Smith of Texas, also supported the issuance of subpoenas to BP America. Smith said he hoped that in the future BP would provide the committee with documents without the panel having to exercise its subpoena authority.
Copyright © 2009 Dow Jones Newswires
Ken Feinberg is the Chief of the new office, called the Independent Claims Facility, set up to handle damage claims for the BP Oil SPill catastrophy is urging residents of the Gulf and those from out of state that have claims stemming from the BP Oil Spill to come forward and file claims for damages.
Ken Feinberg is pledging to make sure all eligible and legitimate claims will be paid and paid promptly. Mr. Feinberg wants all BP oil spill victims to come forward, file a claim for an emergency payment and then work with the office to come up with a claims program. This statement was made within days of BP agreeing to President Barack Obama’s request for a $20 billion compensation fund last week.