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Two years after Deepwater Horizon disaster, Justice Department audit nets extra $64 million in payments for oil blast victims

Thursday, April 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

An independent audit of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility resulted in an extra $64 million for more than 7,400 victims whose claims had originally been denied by former administrator Ken Feinberg.

More than half of the money will be going to Floridians whose claims were erroneously rejected, according to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. As a result of the audit, the Justice Department approved $37.7 million for 4,450 Florida individuals and businesses whom Feinberg turned down.

The U.S. Justice Department released the preliminary audit findings Thursday, one day before the second anniversary of the massive explosion that killed 11 oil rig workers and spewed an estimated 206 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It took more than 85 days for engineers to finally stanch the oil flow from BP’s Macondo well that devastated coastal wetlands, stained Florida Panhandle beaches, killed wildlife and shut down commercial fishing in the Gulf for extended periods of time.

The initial findings of the audit were released The audit, released by the U.S. Justice Department today, found that overall Feinberg did a fine job distributing more than $6.2 billion – less than half of the $20 billion BP set aside to pay for damages caused by the spill – to more than 220,000 claimants over 18 months.

“While our independent evaluation did uncover instances in which errors were made in the claims evaluation process, in general, the GCCF appeared to have consistently applied its protocols and methodologies in processing claims,” BDO Consulting auditors wrote.

The audit found that Feinberg’s GCCF denied about 60 percent of the claims. Initially, claims were denied because the types of businesses trying to get paid were not eligible for payment or because claimants failed to provide required financial documents. During the second part of the claims process, the majority of claims turned down were rejected because they could not document that their financial losses were caused by the massive Deepwater Horizon oil blast.

Feinberg made changes to the claims process in response to problems identified by his workers, likely adding to some of the inconsistencies in payments, the auditors found.

But they praised him, given the “complexity and unprecedented nature” of Feinberg’s task.

“The GCCF was designed to respond, and did respond, with urgency to the economic difficulties of those most likely affected by the Spill. However, because of the complexity and unprecedented nature of the task undertaken by the GCCF, it was inevitable that some claimants and stakeholders would have concerns about its operations. While hundreds of thousands of individual and business claimants received payment without litigation over the two years immediately following the Spill, many others have sought an alternative to the GCCF. We hope
that all those who have been genuinely affected by the Spill, ultimately receive an appropriate resolution to their claims,” the auditors wrote.

Claimants encountered a variety of problems, including being denied even though the companies they worked for had been approved. Others complained that about inconsistency. In some instance, employees who worked the same shift at the same restaurant received different treatment.

Bondi, one of the Gulf Coast state attorneys general who pushed for the audit last year, specifically wanted the audit to include an investigation into the discrepancies.

“I had always wanted an audit in order to bring transparency to the claims process, and thankfully Floridians will now receive the millions in relief that they deserve,” Bondi said in a statement.

Bondi enters BP fray again — against the trial lawyers

Friday, January 13th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has weighed-in on the side of business owners and individuals harmed by the BP oil spill — challenging a judge’s ruling that helped establish a payment plan for trial lawyers.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier last month ordered that 6 percent of all settlements reached after Nov. 7 be reserved to finance the work of plaintiff lawyers in continuing litigation stemming from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In turn, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, in charge of distributing non-lawsuit claims, halted payments to thousands of businesses and people waiting for compensation. Facility administrator Kenneth Feinberg has said he ordered the freeze while seeking a clarification from Barbier on his ruling.

Bondi has filed a legal brief challenging the judge’s order — saying it’s unfair to those who tried to go through the Gulf Coast Claims system established to accelerate payments and avoid lawsuits.

“Individuals and businesses that suffered financial losses due to the oil spill deserve to receive fair compensation as quickly as possible, and that compensation should not be reduced due to the overreaching demands of plaintiffs’ lawyers who have done nothing to help them,” Bondi said Friday. “I have asked the Court to ensure that claimants receive the full compensation that they deserve.”

 

 

Bondi asks private lawyers for help with oil spill litigation

Friday, October 7th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a request for proposals from private lawyers for help in legal action related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

In a press release issued late this afternoon, Bondi said the one-page RFP doesn’t mean the state is going to be suing BP or any of the other parties involved in the massive oil blow-out that stained Panhandle beaches and strained the entire state’s tourism industry last year.

“The proposal is part of an exploratory process that is non-binding and does not signify imminent litigation,” the release said.

Interested lawyers should show their experience in other similar cases, familiarity with the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, and how well-suited their firms are to handle complex, expensive litigation. Lawyers also have to say if they want to be paid hourly, by a contingency fee or a combination. Florida law has a sliding scale capping how much the attorney general can pay outside firms ranging from 25 percent for recoveries up to $10 million to 5 percent for settlements over $25 million.

Yesterday, Bondi gave the U.S. Justice Department guidelines on what she wants from an audit of BP claims czar Ken Feinberg, prompted by complaints about his handling of the $20 billion fund for victims of the oil spill.

Bondi asked that the audit look at:
- Discrepancies in payments to similarly situated claimants;
- Documentation required by Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility;
- Whether Feinberg’s delays in processing interim payments forced claimants to accept “quick pay,” or final settlements, which require them to sign away their right to sue in the future;
- How different industries are being treated;
- The extent to Feinberg relied on how close a claimant was to the oil spill to decide whether or how much a claimant deserved.

Two Delray Beach residents have been charged with bilking the GCCF of more than $340,000 and using the money to rent luxury homes and buy expensive cars and boats. The duo made their first appearance before a U.S. magistrate in Miami today in what the U.S. Attorney’s office is calling “the largest financial loss case brought to date arising from claims filed in connection with the Deepwater Horizon explosion and pollution incident.”

Scott offers glimpse into the future: special districts, beware

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott provided a glimpse Tuesday at his second-year agenda as Florida’s chief executive, promising to continue pushing toward job-creation by cutting regulations and declaring war on the state’s 1,500 special districts.

Expanded oil-drilling in the Everglades, which Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann pointed to as a possibility during a recent visit to the state, looks like a longshot to Scott.

But he didn’t rule it out.

“I think we have to be very cautious with any oil-drilling, whether it’s in the Everglades or whether it’s near our beaches,” Scott told the Economic Club of Florida, meeting in Tallahassee.

Drilling has gone on in a remote stretch of Collier County since the 1940s. But currently only a relatively modest 2,800 barrels of oil are pulled daily from the site, according to Collier Resources, the company which does the drilling.

Scott, though, seems more focused on lifting state regulations — and reining in the tax-and-spending authority of Florida’s wide-ranging special districts. Palm Beach County, alone, has more than 9o such authorities, covering water management, health care, fire districts and more.

Scott told Tuesday’s gathering that these districts control $15 billion in taxes.

“That’s a lot of money,” Scott said. “And there’s not a single voter who gets to vote on what these tax rolls should be.”

Scott took aim at the state’s five water management districts earlier this year. The Legislature’s approval of $700 million in property-tax cuts — the biggest share imposed on the South Florida Water Management District — is expected to be cemented Wednesday when the Legislative Budget Commission signs off on new budgets for water managers. 

In the 2012 legislative session, which begins in January, Scott also plans to push for cutting 1,100 state rules and regulations he said are unnecessary, duplicate federal standards, or stand in the way of sparking the economy.

“We’ve got to do anything we can to make sure we keep this from being an expensive place to live,” Scott said. “If we do that, there will be plenty of jobs.”

Bin Laden bounce? Obama’s approval up in Florida; Nelson has big Senate lead

Thursday, May 26th, 2011 by George Bennett

President Obama‘s approval rating is back above water in a Quinnipiac University poll released this morning. Floridians approve of Obama by a 51-to-43 percent margin, up from a 44-to-52 percent score last month.

It’s Quinnipiac’s first Florida survey since Obama ordered the May 1 raid in Pakistan that killed Islamist terror mastermind Osama bin Laden.

“Whether these numbers represent a ‘bin Laden bounce,’ President Barack Obama’s popularity is up in Florida, which will be a crucial state for him in the 2012 campaign,” said Quinnipiac’s Peter Brown. “The good news for the president is that by 50 – 44 percent Florida voters say Obama deserves a second term in the Oval Office, compared to April when they said 51 – 42 percent that he did not.”

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, meanwhile, holds leads of at least 20 percent in hypothetical match-ups against each of the three Republicans vying to challenge him in 2012: Mike Haridopolos, George LeMieux or Adam Hasner.

(more…)

BP gives Gulf states $1 billion for restoration, Florida to get $100 million

Thursday, April 21st, 2011 by Dara Kam

The day after the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, British Petroleum announced it is giving $1 billion to the five Gulf Coast states – Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida – and federal agencies for early restoration efforts.

Florida will get $100 million to spend on environmental projects related to damages caused by the oil spill.

The $1 billion will fund projects including rebuilding of coastal marshes, beach replenishment, ocean conservation and restoration of barrier islands and wetlands that provide natural protection from storms, according to a press release issued by the National Resource Trustees for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a coalition of state and federal agencies.

“One year after the largest oil spill in our history, we take a major step forward in the recovery of the Gulf of Mexico, for the environment and the people who depend on it for their livelihood and enjoyment. Today’s agreement is a down payment on our promise to protect and restore the Gulf,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

Each of the states, including Florida, will receive $100 million to spend on projects. NOAA and the Department of the Interior will each get $100 million. And the remaining $300 million will given to state proposals selected by the trustees.

Although Florida Panhandle beaches and waters are clean, submerged tar mats remain just offshore in Escambia County. The county’s chief scientist told Gov. Rick Scott and others during a promotional tour of the area yesterday that the mats have got to go.

Local officials have tried for months to get BP and federal officials to clean up the tar mats, fearing a storm could cause tar to wash up on shore and scare away visitors just as Northwest Florida is bouncing back from a dismal tourist season last year in the aftermath of the disaster.

Scott to hold Cabinet meeting, tour Panhandle on oil disaster anniversary

Thursday, April 14th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will hold their next meeting in the Panhandle on Tuesday, the eve of the one-year anniversary since the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Scott will spend two days touring the region to promote Northwest Florida’s beaches and seafood, his staff said today.

His trip coincides not only with the BP oil disaster anniversary but comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this week that the oil giant is giving $30 million to seven Panhandle counties for marketing as the area’s summer tourist season kicks up.

Scott has not yet decided whether to join in a federal lawsuit, as Alabama has done and Mississippi and Louisiana are considering, against Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig. The state has until Wednesday, the date set by a Louisiana federal judge, to join the lawsuit. Lawyers involved in the case say Florida could lose out on recapturing millions of dollars in lost tax revenues by not joining the case.

Stay tuned for more details about Scott’s Panhandle swing.

Bondi, Scott mulling oil rig lawsuit as deadline nears

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi are still undecided about whether to join a federal lawsuit against the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig as next week’s April 20 deadline to file approaches.

“What we’re doing is we’re looking at our options. We’ll make the right decision. We’re exploring our options. We’re looking at it,” Scott said this morning.

“Right now we’re reviewing all of our options,” Bondi echoed.

Alabama has already joined the lawsuit, as have some Florida school districts and other local governments, along with businesses and individuals impacted by last year’s massive oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lawyers involved in the case say the state has nothing to lose by joining in except the possibility of big bucks from Transocean, the rig owner, and other companies involved in the disaster, including BP.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in Louisiana is overseeing the case to determine how much fault BP, Halliburton and the other companies involved in the oil disaster are liable for. A trial is set for late February.

BP pledges $30M in marketing money for Panhandle, state seeks more for lost tax revenue

Monday, April 11th, 2011 by Dara Kam

BP officials agreed to give $30 million over six months to seven counties in the Florida Panhandle hardest hit by last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Gov. Rick Scott announced the agreement with the oil giant this morning, calling it a “very small step on the road to recovery.”

Flanked by BP officials and Northwest Florida lawmakers and tourism officials at a press conference this morning, Scott praised BP for the money aimed at giving the region a boost after a dismal tourist season last year as Panhandle beaches and waters were despoiled by oil.

“This is a great day for Florida. I’m very comfortable that my discussion so far with BP is that they’re going to continue to do the right thing,” said Scott, who did away with the oil spill task force created by Gov. Charlie Crist.

The latest funds – which will be distributed over six months in $10 million increments starting in about two weeks – brings to $62 million the company has given to Florida for tourism marketing. BP also gave another $20 million for testing and marketing the state’s seafood industry.

“We recognize how important tourism is to the economy of Florida and especially North Florida,” said BP senior VP Luke Keller. “We’ve worked very hard with local officials there to make sure the beaches are being cleaned up…I can report the beaches are cleaned up and ready for the tourist season.”

Clean-up efforts continue in the Pensacola area, still impacted by tar mats and tar balls.

Scott’s staff said the state will seek money from BP to cover lost tax revenue resulting from the April 20 disaster that unleashed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico just at the onset of the Panhandle’s tourist season. Details about how much money the state wants were not available.

The state has until April 20 to file a federal lawsuit against BP. Louisiana officials have already filed their claim, and Florida U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, sent Scott a letter today urging him to follow suit.

Read BP exec’s Facebook Q and A

Friday, March 18th, 2011 by Dara Kam

BP exec Dave Rainey, head of the oil giant’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, held his third Facebook chat yesterday.

Rainey’s fielded questions ranging from whether the dispersants used after the April 20th Deepwater Horizon blow-out caused acid rain (he says no), what’s up with tar mats still found on beaches, including Pensacola, and oil on the Gulf of Mexico ocean floor.

The first question dealt with dozens of dead infant dolphins who washed ashore along the Gulf Coast – a six-fold increase from previous years.

“Why are the dolphins dead?” Down Hiller, who asked the first question, wanted to know.

Read Rainey’s response after the jump and the entire transcript here. (more…)

Cannon shows his cards — sorta

Monday, March 7th, 2011 by John Kennedy

House Speaker Dean Cannon says he has no immediate political ambition beyond leading the state House the next two years.

But he could have a future as a Texas hold ‘em poker player.

Cannon on Monday unveiled some dramatic House positions on the courts, pill mills, immigration and Medicaid — on the eve of the Legislature’s opening. He also delivered them using what has become a typical Cannon approach: deeply layered policy changes formed with seemingly little attention paid to those most affected.

As a rising House member, Cannon used a similar tactic in advancing measures affecting property taxes, Medicaid and offshore oil-drilling.  But unlike past years, Cannon floated his ideas out early Monday — instead of the waning hours of a legislative session. (more…)

Crist, Sink rally in Tally against offshore drilling

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink will lead a bipartisan rally today to support a constitutional ban on offshore drilling today.

Crist, a Republican-turned-independent, and Sink, a Democrat, will appear with lawmakers and others at an event at 12:30 on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee.

Crist called lawmakers in for a special session last year to pass a similar amendment to put on the November 2010 ballot, but they snubbed him. The legislature met briefly and adjourned without doing anything after Crist abandoned the GOP and became an independent to avoid a Republican primary in the U.S. Senate race, which he eventually lost to Marco Rubio.

Before leaving office in January, Sink struggled to get BP claims czar Ken Feinberg to improve his claims process after tens of thousands of Panhandle residents, and hundreds of Floridians throughout the state, complained about problems with his Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

That system remains troubled as Feinberg is set to begin making final payments to more than 500,000 applicants for damages caused by the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Yesterday, senators discussed creating a state system for victims of BP’s massive oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to expedite the claims system.

Next Friday, Feinberg will appear before a House committee at the behest of House Speaker Dean Cannon. Hundreds of Panhandle officials and residents are expected to show up. Complaints about Feinberg’s payments from the $20 billion fund set up by BP include delays, an inability to find out where claims are in the process, and inconsistencies in who gets paid and how much.

A federal judge recently ruled that Feinberg is not independent of BP, as he contends, and ordered him to quit saying that he is.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is so fed up with Feinberg’s erratic claims system that on Monday he asked a federal judge to take it over “to facilitate the timely and just processing of claims.”

BP claims czar agrees to appear before House committee

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

BP claims czar Ken Feinberg will appear before the House Economic Affairs Committee on Feb. 18, his office confirmed to committee chairwoman Dorothy Hukill.

Hukill, R-Port Orange, and other lawmakers want Feinberg to explain why tens of thousands of Florida business owners, most of them in the Panhandle, are having so much trouble having their claims paid after the massive oil spill last spring created an economic catastrophe in the region.

Feinberg, in charge of the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility, has been the target of attack by numerous lawyer, lawmakers, Florida residents, and, most recently, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who’s demanding a White House investigation into Feinberg’s process.

Among the complaints: applicants are paid a fraction of what they believe they should receive, with no explanation; individuals are unable to speak with anyone directly about the details of their claims or where they are in the process; a seemingly willy-nilly approach to payment of claims that are nearly identical.

Feinberg insists he’s doing the best he can with the more than half million claims he’s received, and he continues to promise to improve his system.

The public can comment on Feinberg’s draft protocols, released last week, for handling interim and final payments by e-mailing: MethodologyComments@gccf-claims.com.

The methodology for determining eligibility and payment can be viewed here.

House Speaker orders investigation into oil spill claims system

Thursday, January 13th, 2011 by Dara Kam

House Speaker Dean Cannon is asking his economic development committee to investigate reports of problems with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility payments to BP oil spill victims.

BP claims czar Ken Feinberg has paid out almost $1.2 billion to nearly 70,000 claimants.

But more than twice that many claims – about 157,000 – remain in the system.

“Recently, numerous breakdowns and inconsistencies within the claims process have been brought to my attention,” Cannon, R-Orlando, wrote to House Economic Affairs Committee Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill.

Sink to host BP claims workshop in Panama City

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink’s office is holding a workshop in Panama City tomorrow for Floridians wanting help getting their BP claims paid.

Sink’s staff will be at the Marina Civic Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will meet with individuals and business owners trying to get speedier payments – or any at all – from BP claims czar Ken Feinberg, in charge of doling out the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility fund.

Sink, the Democrat candidate for governor, has been critical of Feinberg’s claims process and took credit yesterday after the Boston lawyer decided to expand eligibility for claims payments to businesses located far away from where oil washed up on the beach.

She’s also launched a website where Floridians can share their horror tales about navigating the claims process.

Former DEP chief Mike Sole heads to FPL

Monday, October 4th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole has gone to work for Juno Beach-based Florida Power & Light.

The marine biologist is the vice president of the power company’s government affairs department, according to an internal FPL memo.

Sole, appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist shortly after he took office four years ago, stepped down as DEP chief this summer in the midst of overseeing the state’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

BP claims czar backs off proximity to oil spill in paying claims

Monday, October 4th, 2010 by Dara Kam

How close a business is to where oil actually washed up on the beach won’t be a factor in determining whether it is eligible to be paid for lost revenues, BP claims czar Ken Feinberg has decided.

Feinberg revamped the claims process after being pressured by a bipartisan coalition of Florida officials, including Gov. Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

Today, Kenneth Feinberg, Administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, announced that geographic proximity to the BP oil spill would not prevent a legitimate individual or business claim from being processed.

“I have heard from elected officials in Florida, including Governor Crist, Attorney General McCollum, CFO Sink and others, about their concerns regarding Floridians’ proximity to the spill and how, regardless of distance, there has been economic impact beyond the areas closest to the spill. After listening to these concerns, I have concluded that a geographic test to determine eligibility regarding economic harm due to the oil spill is unwarranted,” Feinberg said in the statement.

Claimants must “rove damages resulting from the spill itself and not other causes, but “physical proximity from the spill will not, in and of itself, bar the processing of legitimate claims,” he said.

His reversal on proximity is a victory for Florida hotel and restaurant owners, who hired a legal dream team to fight Feinberg and help businesses get their claims paid.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and state elected officials objected to Feinberg’s inclusion of proximity as a factor in paying claims. They said tourists stayed away from the Sunshine State because they had the perception that oil had contaminated areas of Florida even where it hadn’t.

Hotel and restaurant association to hold claims workshop in Panhandle Monday

Friday, October 1st, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association will hold the first of 19 workshops on Monday in Pensacola for business owners struggling to get their claims paid by BP claims czar Ken Feinberg.

The association hired a legal dream team to negotiate with Feinberg, who balked at paying for damages to businesses not directly impacted by oil-stained beaches caused by the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

The lawyers will be at the Hilton Pensacola Gulf Front hotel from 10 a.m. to noon C.T. and will give an overview of the claims process and help assist business owners to figure out whether they are eligible for payments and, if so, how much. They’ll also provide individual assistance.

The FRLA recently won a concession – of sorts – from Feinberg. He said he’d take into consideration tourists’ perception that Florida’s beaches were tar-infested, even when they were not, and the overall damage to Florida’s tourism brand caused by the oil spill.

CFO Sink opens BP claims complaint website

Thursday, September 30th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has setup a web site to let disgruntled Floridians vent about their problems getting paid by BP claims czar Ken Feinberg.

Her new website – www.myfloridacfo.com/FloridaClaimsHelp/ – invites visitors to share their stories “if you’ve filed your claim and provided the documentation requested to the best of your ability but have not received a response or are getting the runaround.”

Feinberg, who took over the Gulf Coast Claims Facility on Aug. 23, this week promised larger, faster claims even as he tries to manage a backlog of more than 10,000 claims, many of them in Florida.

Sink and the Florida Cabinet are demanding that Feinberg speed up the payments and want them to show up at their next Cabinet meeting next month.

AG candidate Gelber joins chorus pushing for broader BP claims payments

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Add state Sen. Dan Gelber, the Democrat candidate for attorney general, to the list of pols criticizing BP claims czar Ken Feinberg for his handling of payments to Floridians harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Gelber, a former federal prosecutor from Miami Beach, sent a letter to Feinberg asking him to include the costs of preparing claims to payments to individuals and businesses. Feinberg said he won’t pay for legal or accounting fees associated with the filings.

“Citizens of our state are rightfully frustrated. They see promises from BP actors in commercials suggesting the company is prepared to do the right thing. Yet on the ground, they see obfuscation, and a process that is filled with more chutes than ladders,” Gelber wrote.

Gelber also joined Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the Democrat candidate for governor; Gov. Charlie Crist, the independent candidate for U.S. Senate; and Attorney General Bill McCollum, the Republican who lost the primary bid for governor, in demanding that Feinberg pay damages to those located where oil never reached the shore. Feinberg’s consideration of proximity to the oil spill in paying claims has been a major issue of contention since he took over BP’s botched claims process on Aug. 23.

Sink and the Florida Cabinet slammed Feinberg yesterday and Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon, a member of a statewide task force looking into the economic damages caused by the disaster, gave Feinberg just a few weeks to speed up payments to businesses on the brink of bankruptcy in Northwest Florida.

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