NEW ORLEANS – Patrick Juneau, the administrator of the claims center for the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, has come under fire again.
On March 8, Florida Senator Bill Nelson urged Juneau to accelerate the processing of damage claims filed by Florida residents and business owners in connection with the 2010 environmental disaster.
“Floridians are fed up with years of delay tactics, evasive answers and total silence from the claims process,” Nelson wrote. “People have closed up shop, packed up their families and left the state because there was no end in sight for their businesses to recoup lost revenue.”
In his letter, Nelson said many in the state are still waiting for compensation – nearly six years after the spill in the Gulf.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill – considered the worst in U.S. history – began on April 20, 2010 on a BP-operated oil rig, following an explosion that sank the rig and spewed an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf over 87 days. There were 11 casualties, and thousands of communities along the Gulf Coast were crippled economically.
In 2015, BP agreed to settle claims with the federal government, over 400 local government entities and five states, including Florida. The settlements total nearly $19 billion and will be paid over an 18-year span.
According to Nelson, the claims process has unfolded too slowly, with much of the blame squarely on Juneau’s shoulders.
“As the Administrator of the Deepwater Horizon Claims Center, you are responsible for settling these petitions and ensuring a fair outcome for the victims of the BP spill,” he wrote to Juneau.
Nelson also wrote that his office has been inundated with complaints from constituents who see no end in sight for the claims process.
“Over the past year alone, I received multiple complaints from business owners who could not even get someone to confirm that their claim was received, or give an estimate of when their case would be resolved.”
This is not the first time Juneau has been criticized in his role as claims administrator. Since his appointment in 2012, Juneau has come under attack for failing to disclose conflicts of interest associated with the settlement process. BP pushed for Juneau’s removal, but later agreed to stop its efforts to oust him.
Most recently, Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch, a non-partisan legal watchdog group, published a report highlighting a 2013 audit of Juneau’s office, which received $6.4 million for travel costs, $600,000 for office supplies and $2 million for hotel expenses.
“I urge you to fulfill your obligation to Gulf Coast residents by resolving all claims as expeditiously and fairly as possible,” Nelson told Juneau in his letter.