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BP Payout Effects: Shrimpers Stay Home, Bar Fights Break Out

Posted Oct 20, 2010 8:31 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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BP payouts are changing life on the Gulf Coast, but the effects aren’t all for the better.

Flush with cash or anticipating big payouts, some fisherman are opting to stay home rather than work, the Washington Post reports. In Plaquemines Parish, La., disputes between those who received compensation and those who didn’t have led to barroom shoving matches and calls to sheriff’s police.

“Today, it is BP's money, not its oil, that is most visibly altering the Gulf Coast,” the Washington Post says. “The money has been welcomed as a lifeline. But it has made the coast feel like an open-air economic experiment: Some hardworking fishermen think it's in their best interest to be idle, losing market share they will need next year. And those who haven't been paid are looking for legal and illegal ways to work the system.”

One person sought $10 million but was able to show only $800 in lost income. Another wanted $20 billion, but offered no proof. Some fisherman provided just one piece of documentation: a fishing license.

The $20 billion compensation fund has approved 73,346 claims for payment and paid out $1.49 billion in all, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports in a story focusing on inconsistent decisions by the fund.

“In the tourist towns and fishing villages along the Gulf Coast, there is rampant confusion and frustration about the payment decisions and timing of BP's Gulf Coast Claims Facility,” the Wall Street Journal says. “Some Gulf businesses were paid in full right away, while their neighbors received nothing or only part of what they requested, without explanation, sparking complaints about inequity.”

The story says compensation czar Kenneth Feinberg became more generous after the Justice Department complained about delays in a Sept. 17 letter. Now he is less skeptical about large loss claims by fishermen and is compensating business for losses even if they weren't close to shore.

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