|April 13, 2012
Contact: Whitney Ray
Phone: (850) 245-0150
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla.–As the two-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill disaster nears, Attorney General Pam Bondi today filed a Statement of Interest in the multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana. The statement asks the Court for a methodical review of the pending settlement in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill before granting preliminary approval and raises concerns regarding the possible resolution and its far-reaching consequences. Today’s filing is the latest effort by Attorney General Bondi to ensure that Floridians harmed by the oil spill receive the relief they deserve.
“I am greatly concerned that we lack substantial information about the pending settlement that could have significant ramifications for Floridians and could also, among other things, eliminate short-term, interim damage claims,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi.
In the statement, the Attorney General raised two main concerns based on the available information on the proposed settlement. First, it appears that the settlement will apply only to claims from Florida businesses and residents located in the Panhandle or along the west coast of Florida. Accordingly, thousands of Florida individual and business claims would not be covered by the settlement’s terms and may be left without any recourse under the settlement, despite the fact that BP and even the Gulf Coast Claims Facility have paid claims from almost every county in Florida.
Second, the Court’s preliminary approval of the proposed settlement would apparently result in the immediate discontinuation of the interim claims process, despite the fact that the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 requires such a process. This could significantly harm those individuals and businesses that have sought and received interim payments but decided not to submit final claims, perhaps due to their concerns over the spill’s unknown long-term effects.
In the wake of the April 20, 2010 oil spill, Attorney General Bondi has remained steadfastly committed to defending the interests of the State and harmed Floridians. Attorney General Bondi has long advocated for a transparent claims process. She insisted that the process be fair and every individual or business claimant affected by the oil spill obtain an appropriate result. She communicated with Kenneth Feinberg throughout his time as the Administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility in an effort to improve the claims process, including advocating for an independent audit.
Attorney General Bondi also played a pivotal role in limiting the application of the partial, six-percent “holdback” to oil spill claimants’ recoveries. On Dec. 28, the Court in the multi-district proceedings in New Orleans issued an order that established a "reserve" and directed that an amount equivalent to six percent of any payments made on or after Nov. 7, 2011 be withheld from claimants who settled directly with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility even if they never joined the litigation. Attorney General Bondi objected to this holdback, and the Court reversed its decision.
After prompting by Attorney General Bondi and the other Gulf Coast Attorneys General, Administrator Kenneth Feinberg agreed with the Department of Justice to an independent assessment of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. Attorney General Pam Bondi requested that the audit include, among other things, review of: unexplained discrepancies in payments to similarly situated claimants; the documentation required by the GCCF; whether the GCCF’s delays in processing interim claim payments forced otherwise unwilling claimants to accept “quick pay” or final payments, which require the claimant to sign a broad release.
The Attorney General’s Office continues to work with various state agencies to finalize the State of Florida’s claim for economic losses to BP. The Attorney General’s Office is also working closely with the Department of Environmental Protection and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regarding the State's environmental damages.
To view the statement, please click here: http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/JMEE-8TBVFJ/$file/statementofinterest.pdf