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Obama Wants Independent Third Party to Administer BP Oil Claims Payments

5 years ago
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The Obama administration wants an independent third party panel to take over from BP the handling of claims compensating people and businesses suffering economic damage from the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the administration's point man on the federal response to the spill, said Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation that "We've been very concerned about the claims process. This is not a core function of an oil-producing company. And they usually retain a third party contractor to do that."

"It's not clear to us that there's the right of transparency involved concerning ... how long it takes to pay claims," Allen said. "So one of the things we're probably going to be talking about (is) an independent third party that could administer a fund to make sure it happens quicker."

Thad AllenObama, who has called top BP executives to the White House on Wednesday, is planning to use his legal authority to require the oil giant to put billions of dollars into an escrow account from which claims would be paid, according to published reports. Obama plans to announce the move in a Tuesday night address to the nation on the Gulf disaster, after making yet another trip to the region Monday and Tuesday -- his fourth since the leak began.

Senior White House adviser David Axelrod said on NBC's Meet the Press that "we want to make sure (the) money is escrowed for the legitimate claims that are going to be made and are being made by businesses down in the Gulf, people who have been damaged by this. And we want to make sure that that money is independently administered so that there won't be slow-walk on these claims."

Obama said earlier this month that "what I don't want to hear is ... that they're (BP) nickel-and-diming fishermen or small businesses here in the gulf who are having a hard time."

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, whose states is one of those affected by the spill, said that reports Obama would make the announcement before the meeting with BP executives was "a little surprising to me. I mean, normally ...if I were, as governor, trying to make sure somebody does something, I would meet with them before I went on television. But, ...it's up to the president. It's not up to me."

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said on CNN's State of the Union that all those affected by the spill should be eligible for compensation, ranging from oil workers who are idle because drilling has been halted in the area to storeowners, hotels and fisherman.

Riley said "everyone of them" should get money from BP. "I don't think there is a dividing line. I don't think you can say that one group is going to get it and another one doesn't. If a restaurant in Gulf Shores, Alabama, is off 50 percent because the tourists didn't come, I think he is owed 50 percent of his revenues from last year."

"The same thing with anyone in these areas, because the whole economy is based on the tourist market," said Riley. "And when it goes away, someone's got to compensate them, because most of these people are not going to be here next year if we don't."

Riley criticized the administration for still allowing the response effort to be run by a "committee" rather than a "unified command."

"It's a committee that essentially consists of all of the different federal agencies sitting down here, and as a committee, each one has a veto over whatever policies we have," Riley said.

"Let me give you an example," he said. "The Coast Guard built a plan for Alabama. Someone in the unified command decided that wasn't a good plan and has taken 45 days now to come back and revise a plan that we can stop this oil from going into some of the most sensitive estuaries we have in the state of Alabama."

Meanwhile, on ABC's This Week, House Minority Leader John Boehner said he supported efforts now underway on Capitol Hill to raise the $75 million liability cap so that BP would be responsible for claims beyond that amount. New Jersey Democratic senators Bob Menendez and Frank Lautenberg have sponsored legislation to raise it to $10 billion.

"I believe that lifting the liability cap on BP and for this spill is appropriate," Boehner said. "They should be held responsible for every dime of this cost."

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