Feinberg says GCCF has not received claims for dispersant sickness
Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) says his office has not processed any claims as a result of oil spill cleanup crews becoming sick due to chemical dispersants.
Feinberg spoke at a committee hearing established by the Louisiana legislature to review the oil spill claims process.
Close to 2 million gallons of the chemical dispersant Corexit was used to help fight the tens of millions of gallons of oil the spewed into the Gulf of Mexico after the BP-owned Deepwater Horizon oilrig exploded and sank last year.
During the cleanup, media reports surfaced of fishermen hired to clean up the spill under BP's Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) program becoming sick due to fumes from the dispersant.
"I haven't seen it in the claims," Feinberg said.
Responding to a question from Sen. A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell), Feinberg said that it could take years for symptoms to show up, if at all.
Feinberg said that if people start becoming sick and they believe it's because of dispersants, their best remedy would be to file a lawsuit if the symptoms show up after the GCCF closes in August 2013.
The GCCF has paid off approximately $4.5 billion to some 400,000 claimants.
Feinberg and the GCCF have come under fire from residents as well as lawmakers.
In February, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and Governor Bobby Jindal filed a memo criticizing the GCCF with U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the BP oil spill multidistrict litigation.
The memo criticized the GCCF for allegedly failing to comply with the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) and that claimants should not be required to relinquish their right to sue BP in exchange for a final payment.
In Florida state court, a marine salvage company filed a lawsuit against Feinberg and the GCCF alleging that they committed negligence and fraud in the claims process.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said the GCCF has forced residents of his state to be "reduced to begging for handouts from an organization ... whose primary missions seems to be turning them down."
Conversely, BP has criticized Feinberg and the GCCF for handing out payments that are too high and that there "is no credible support for adopting an artificially high future loss."
Feinberg and his lawyers have defended the GCCF and its decision making throughout.
In March, Feinberg told United Press International that he cannot pay "80 percent of the remaining 130,000 claims because they lack adequate documentation."
In April, Feinberg's attorneys David Pitofsky and William Sheehan filed a memo in federal court in New Orleans claiming that the GCCF process "is working effectively" and the court has no authority to intervene.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is overseeing the multidistrict litigation (MDL) surrounding the oil spill in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The memo came as a response to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's request that Barbier intervene in the GCCF and audit the oil spill claims process.
"The court does not have the power under the Oil Pollution Act to impose upon the GCCF the monitoring sought by the attorney general," Pitofsky wrote.