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AG Bondi sues BP, Halliburton for $5.4 billion

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Pam Bondi has sued BP and Halliburton for more than $5.4 billion for lost revenue to the state caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil blast.

“We know BP has caused a tremendous amount of damage to our state,” Bondi told reporters at a press conference this afternoon. “Millions of barrels of oil were spilled into our Gulf for months and months during the height of tourism season in our state. There is no doubt in my mind that BP must be required to compensate our state for our losses.”

Bondi said she offered the oil giant a deal 90 days ago but received no response. She filed the lawsuit on Saturday, the three-year deadline for lawsuits for damages. The 86-day gusher clotted the Panhandle’s pristine beaches and emerald waters with oil at the onset of the region’s tourist season.

“We had hoped BP would do the right thing and work with us…yet that hasn’t happened,” Bondi said, adding that the state “did not even receive a response” from BP. “It’s astonishing to me considering the harm BP has caused our state and our people. Floridians deserve better and we are going to receive it from BP.”

Bondi said the bulk of the $5.4 billion she is seeking is based on anticipated future losses, mainly sales and use taxes, corporate taxes and documentary stamp taxes from a drop in real estate transactions.

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 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.”

Analysts puzzle over jobless claims from BP spill

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 by John Kennedy

When the Florida Panhandle was staggered by the effects of last summer’s BP oil spill, hotels, restaurants and other employers along the coast laid-off workers and braced for economic calamity.

But state analysts looking to put a price on how much financial damage Florida absorbed remained puzzled Thursday by a recurring number. The state’s employment office, the Agency for Workforce Innovation, reports that only 735 unemployment claims have been directly linked to the oil spill.

Tom Clendenning, AWI’s chief-of-staff, told the state’s revenue estimating conference that 7,778 workers also were let go last year by the same employers who laid-off the 778. A survey is now being conducted to learn whether the 778 lost jobs should be increased — with the bill going to BP. 

Clendenning said that $2.3 million in unemployment benefits have been paid out related to the oil spill. Estimators are trying to determine how much in taxes and fees Florida taxpayers lost last year, in addition to benefit payouts.

One item estimators took off the table Thursday was lost revenue in traffic tickets, due to lost traffic. Estimators seemed to think that was too tough to quantify.

BP last week asked the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which oversees claims, to reduce damage payments because the British oil giant said the region’s tourist economy has recovered and fisheries are back to work.

Florida U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Republican Marco Rubio are among officials disputing BP’s stance, saying there is too much uncertainty to claim the spill poses no future financial risk for coastal communities.

BP said it has paid Florida cities and counties about $10.6 million for revenue losses, in addition to millions more for cleanup, expenses and tourist promotion.

Nelson rejects BP’s pitch

Monday, July 11th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson accused BP of trying to back away Monday from an earlier pledge to cover the cost of last summer’s Gulf oil spill.

Nelson wrote Ken Feinberg, who adminsters claims and the $20 billion BP fund created, saying the company should not be given early release from its obligation to pay damages stemming from the spill.

 BP last week filed a document with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility saying the company should not be required to pay claims for future compensation, because the region’s economy is recovering and fisheries have reopened.

Feinberg did not immediately respond to BP’s filing. But Nelson did.

“BP made a commitment.  People are still hurting.  And we don’t know what will happen in the future, plus there’s still claims in an appeals process and large claims that haven’t even been submitted yet,” Nelson said in his letter to the administrator.

 ”BP doesn’t need to be protected from the citizenry.  It’s the other way around,” he added.

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 review of BP claims czar mixed

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Eight months after BP claims czar Ken Feinberg took over the $20 billion victim claim fund, reviews are mixed as to how the brash Boston lawyer is handling the process.

Gov. Rick Scott, in Destin to pitch tourism in the region hammered by last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig blast that sparked the nation’s worst oil spill in history, said he met with Feinberg last week while in Washington.

“The positive is he’s opened up more claims offices here and more feet on the ground and more people here talking to them. The negative is there’s a lot of people that still haven’t been paid,” Scott said standing outside the Lucky Snapper restaurant in Destin.

Feinberg, who’s paid out $3.8 billion to businesses and individuals in the Gulf States since taking over the Gulf Coast Claims Facility in August. That includes $1.5 billion to Florida victims.

Feinberg’s processed about 70 percent of the more than 500,000 claims filed. But many of those claims have yet to be paid.

Scott said he and Attorney General Pam Bondi set March 31 goals for Feinberg’s processing of Florida claims.

But nearly a month later, Scott couldn’t say whether Feinberg met his benchmarks.

“He’s given us how he thinks he’s doing,” Scott said .

Scott said he and Bondi’s staff are reviewing Feinberg’s results “to see what improvements he needs to make to make sure that we get everyone paid.”

Scott said he believes Feinberg is open to suggestions.

“He doesn’t want pressure from either attorney general or me. So what we’ve got to do is keep telling him what our needs are and just make sure he does the right thing,” Scott said.

The governor refrained from giving Feinberg a grade yet but promised “I’ll be telling him exactly how I think he’s doing.”

Guv and guns, fish and food in Panhandle promo tour

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Scott shows off his catch of the day. Courtesy Bass 2 Billfish.

Gov. Rick Scott shopped, fished and supped on seafood during a two-day Panhandle swing to promote the region on the one-year anniversary of last year’s devastating Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Gov. Rick Scott and Ronnie Groom, owner of C and G Sporting Goods in Panama City

Scott stopped in C and G Sporting Goods in downtown Panama City to purchase a fishing license, peruse guns and get a hat for his collegial fishing tourney with fellow Cabinet members later in the day.

When told that Smith and Wesson has a new gun out called “The Governor,” Scott, surrounded by reporters and his ear-piece outfitted security detail, grinned.

“I’ve got FDLE,” said Scott, who already owns several guns. “I’ll be fine.”

The panel came to the Panhandle to advertise its beaches, fishing and emerald-green water.

“As everyone knows, we have pristine beaches. They are beautiful. We have great fishing, the best in the world, and it tastes great,” Scott said before climbing aboard a boat with “Bass 2 Billfish” host Peter Miller.

Scott will complete his cheerleading in Pensacola and Destin today.

Scott, Cabinet in Panhandle get their game (fish) on

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott with his new fishing license in Panama City

Gov. Rick Scott, in the Panhandle as the state’s cheerleader-in-chief, and the Florida Cabinet threw down the gauntlet – at each other – in advance of a “friendly” fishing tournament this afternoon.

In Panama City on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blast that sent 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam held their first out-of-town Cabinet meeting at the Bay County Government Center in Panama City.

Some good news for Florida anglers other than the Cabinet – Putnam’s staff announced the state would hold two free fishing weekends at the open of the red snapper season on June 4 and again for Father’s Day on June 19. And they’ve extended the scallop season for three extra weeks. The season will begin a week before its previously scheduled July 1 kick off and last two weeks longer than the slated Sept. 10 close.

The Cabinet fishing competition began almost as soon as the panel – all clad in Columbia fishing shirts embroidered with the new “Gulf Safe” seafood marketing logo – reached the podium.

“It’s great to be here,” said Scott, who purchased his $17.50 fishing license at C and G Sporting Goods in downtown Panama City earlier in the day. “We’re going to have a fishing tournament. And we all know that I’m going to win.”

Bondi stepped up to Scott’s challenge.

(more…)

Florida won’t join Transocean lawsuit

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Florida will not join other Gulf states in a lawsuit against Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday morning.

“It doesn’t make sense that the state join that lawsuit. We have a plan to make sure our state is treated fairly with regards getting reimbursed by British Petroleum for the damages done to our state,” Scott told reporters on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the oil rig blast that spewed 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Scott spoke with reporters at Eastern Shipbuilding in Allenton, outside Panama City, where he and the Florida Cabinet will meet later this afternoon. The governor is in the Panhandle for a two-day swing as the region’s cheerleader-in-chief, coinciding with a $30 million marketing effort paid for by BP to the seven Gulf Coast counties hardest hit by the oil disaster.

Scott, a lawyer, said ideally the state will settle its claim with BP without having to go to court.

“That would be utopia,” Scott said of reaching an agreement with the oil giant.

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.

Did BP claims czar snub Senate Ag committee?

Monday, April 11th, 2011 by Dara Kam

BP claims czar Ken Feinberg didn’t show up at a Senate Agriculture Committee this afternoon, although he was scheduled (sort of) to be there.

Feinberg’s last appearance before state lawmakers was in March, when he took heat for continued complaints about delays paying Panhandle claims. Feinberg, in charge of BP’s $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility, also met then with Attorney General Pam Bondi and dined with Gov. Rick Scott at the mansion.

Senate Ag chairman Gary Siplin said he’s been e-mailing Feinberg for weeks trying to get him to testify but was unsuccessful.

Instead, Feinberg sent a letter, which Siplin had staff read into the record, saying he’s booked up and won’t be back in the Sunshine State until May.

Feinberg wrote that he is “not reluctant to visit Florida to discuss the ongoing efforts of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility” and pledged to meet with Siplin at his next meeting in Florida. But Siplin’s committee likely won’t meet again before the legislative session ends May 6.

“The bottom line is we do have subpoena power. I’m not saying we should resort to that but I think it’s crucial that we get him here,” Siplin, D-Orlando said.

Siplin’s staff suggested getting Feinberg to testify during a workshop for an interim report on the impact of last year’s BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

That’s not good enough for Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.

“Frankly I found it insulting to you as the chairman of this committee that this man who’s supposed to be taking care of Floridians…cares no more about their welfare and the restoration of their good fortune than to snub this committee,” Hays said. “And not only that, he’s indicating his lack of concern…by not coming to the state until after April. What good is it going to do to subpoena somebody who doesn’t care?”

Meanwhile, BP officials and Gov. Rick Scott announced today the oil company is giving the seven Panhandle counties hardest hit by the oil spill $30 million for marketing as the region’s summer tourist season kicks up.

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…)

Sorry boaters. Bye-bye marine tax holiday.

Friday, March 11th, 2011 by Dara Kam

A proposed three-month tax holiday in the Panhandle for marine-related goods – including boats – is off the table.

The tax holiday was stripped by Niceville Republican Sen. Don Gaetz, the sponsor of a package (SB 248) aimed at giving an economic boost to the seven Northwest Florida counties hard hit by last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil gusher.

The proposed tax break would have saved taxpayers more than $15 million next year, according to a Senate staff analysis of the measure.

If approved by lawmakers and the governor, the Panhandle will get $10 million next year to help the region diversify its tourism- and military-based economy, with another $20 million over the next two years.

But even that money won’t go as far as the bill originally intended.

At the request of Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat who was out sick during the meeting, Gaetz offered an amendment to add Wakulla County to the list of seven counties – Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton – the money is earmarked for.

The measure would also steer three-quarters of any money Florida receives from payments from lawsuits or fines related to the lawsuit – which could amount to billions of dollars – to the same eight counties.

The committee also approved memorials to Congress asking the federal government to give an income tax exemption to those who received payments from BP for losses incurred because of the oil blast.

Scott, Bondi persuade BP claims czar to improve Florida cases

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

BP claims czar Ken Feinberg has agreed to improve Florida’s claims processing at the urging of Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, Scott announced today.

The changes come after tens of thousands of Panhandle Floridians’ claims have languished for months while trying to seek compensation for the April 20th Deepwater Horizon blow-out.

Bondi and Scott met with Feinberg separately while the lawyer, whose firm earns $850,000 a month to manage the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, was in the Capitol to appear before a House committee.

Read the promised improvements after the jump.

(more…)

Asian-American hoteliers disrupt Feinberg hearing, walk out

Friday, February 18th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Shouting “He lies,” more than a dozen Asian-American hotel owners from Florida’s Gulf Coast walked out of a meeting this morning disrupting BP claims czar Ken Feinberg testimony before a critical House panel digging into his handling of the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

The group then stood outside the House Economic Affairs Committee meeting room and broke into the civil rights song “We Shall Overcome,” led by Art Rocker of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with updated lyrics blasting Feinberg.

More than 85 percent of the 700 Asian-American hotel owners in Florida have not received any payments from Feinberg, forcing many of them on the brink of foreclosure, Pensacola hotelier Nash Patel said.

Nash and leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference met with Feinberg but have had no success in having their claims resolved despite promises from the lawyer whose firm earns $850,000 a month to administer the BP money.

Meanwhile, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association has reported glowingly about Feinberg’s settling of its association members’ claims.

“We’re certainly not,” Patel said.

Without saying Feinberg was discriminating against them, Patel said the differences bear scrutiny.

“Is it because of who we are? We have to look at that,” he said.

(more…)

Scott to meet with BP claims czar

Thursday, February 17th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott will meet this afternoon with BP claims czar Ken Feinberg the day before the man with the $20 billion checkbook gets what is expected to be a grilling from a House committee.

Feinberg agreed to testify before the House Economic Affairs Committee at 9 a.m. Friday to field questions from disgruntled lawmakers unhappy with his handling of tens of thousands of Florida claims that have languished under his watch.

A federal judge recently ordered Feinberg, whose law firm earns $850,000 a month for administering the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, to quit saying he was independent of BP, the oil giant responsible in part for last year’s Deepwater Horizon massive oil disaster.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is among those calling for a White House investigation of Feinberg and the claims process after claimants complained that the money is being handed out inconsistently and they are unable to get answers about who got paid how much, if at all, and why.

Anticipating a huge turnout for tomorrow’s two-hour meeting, committee chairwoman Dorothy Hukill ordered members to submit their questions for Feinberg in writing to her by Wednesday.

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.”

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