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Monday, April 18, 2011

The Myth of "Spillionaires"

Last week, Kim Barker wrote an article that ran in the Washington Post claiming that the oil spill has delivered a "gusher of money," creating a new class of "Spillionaires." The article cites a handful of examples of companies that received windfalls from BP thanks to corrupt local officials who secured lucrative contracts with the companies for political supporters. Barker’s article, Spillionaires are the New Rich after BP Oil Spill Payouts, paints a picture suggesting that the spill was lucrative for many, if not most, Gulf coasters.

But is it true that the most people who are choosing to settle claims with BP are getting the compensation they deserve? A new report by Alliance for Justice that will be released in the coming days suggests it is not, and makes recommendations for ways to ensure that victims are made whole.

While there may certainly be anomalous instances of individual claimants making out like bandits, Barker’s article is misleading in that it does not tell the story of the vast majority of claimants who continue to suffer economically because of BP. Spillionaires acknowledges (near the end of the article) that "those at the bottom earned much less" and that not all have received fair compensation – reinforcing the fact that the Spill has in many cases hit the most vulnerable the hardest.

A new article by the Mobile Press Register paints a picture very different from the one in Spillionaires – telling the story of a handful of the many victims whose life investments have been wiped out because of the spill, and for whom the claims process set up by BP has failed to provide meaningful recompense. For instance, sixth-generation fisherman Paul Johnson received just $10,000 from GCCF, despite the fact that his oyster catch has dropped from 400 to 60 gallons a week. Johnson has chosen not to accept a final payment from GCCF, despite his dire financial situation, and will continue trying to get by on short-term payments from GCCF that do not require him to give up his right to sue BP.

To learn more about the effect the oil spill has had on residents of the Gulf, check out Alliance for Justice's award-winning short film, Crude Justice .

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