BP says that it has doled out $29 million to Gulf Coast residents and workers who claim the seemingly unstoppable oil spill has dealt them an economic blow. At the same time, the oil giant is also actively working to block an attempt by some fishermen to have a federal judge oversee the company’s claims process.
In court documents submitted by BP, the company says that it has not denied any claims to date, many of which come from fishermen and shrimpers. The federal government has closed 19 percent of the Gulf of Mexico (about 46,000 square miles) to fishing. Shrimping season on the Gulf was set to begin just after the Deepwater Horizon exploded nearly six weeks ago.
BP says that it has received about 25,000 claims so far and has made about 12,000 payments. The company argues that the 1990 Oil Pollution Act gives the U.S. Coast Guard oversight responsibilities, possibly betting that the far-reaching economic implications of the massive oil spill are too big for the Coast Guard to handle.
BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and other companies that are directly linked to the Deepwater Horizon disaster currently face more than 130 lawsuits.
Last month, BP representatives who employed fishermen forced out of work by the oil spill were caught making the workers forfeit their right to sue the company for future lost wages and other damages by signing legal waivers. BP quickly stopped the practice after it came to light, saying that it was a legal misstep.
The Commercial fishing industry is the economic life force of the Gulf Coast, accounting for more than $10.5 billion in sales, more than $5.6 billion in income, and supporting more than 200,000 jobs. Additionally, the most recent economic statistics show that about 6.2 million recreational anglers spent $2.2 billion on more than 23 million fishing trips in the Gulf.