Oil-Spill Victims: Where’s Justice?

A year after a drilling-rig explosion sent millions of barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, thousands who lost their livelihoods still await payment of their claims.

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He is not alone in his concern. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and other local officials are concerned, too.

In a pointed letter to Kenneth Feinberg, who heads up the GCCF, Strange promises to hold the agency’s feet to the fire.

“Quit dragging your feet and stalling the large majority of claims to a point where victims are so desperate that they settle for anything,” Strange wrote in the letter dated March 21. “Remember, your job is to compensate the victims — not magnify their problems by playing games with BP’s money (to BP’s benefit).”

Strange’s letter came on the heels of the release of statistics by Feinberg’s office in early March announcing that it had processed 57 percent of the 256,000 individual and business final claims, including 99,905 quick payments that require recipients to relinquish their rights to pursue further litigation as a result of the spill.

“I am of the firm belief that Feinberg and the BP claims process is preying on the desperate economic situation of these families with their backs against the wall, and is dangling grossly inadequate ‘final’ payments in hopes that people will give up their claims for quick cash. This is why these releases that permanently force people to give up rights should be thrown out by the court,” Strange said in a prepared statement.

Feinberg responded back in a fiery 21-page letter that his office forwarded to The Root. In the letter dated March 23, he explained that claims were not casually dismissed. In fact, of the 153,076 claims processed since Nov. 23, only 4,013 were denied, and each was accompanied by an explanation of rejection, Feinberg wrote.

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