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January 25, 2016

2016 to offer renewed hope for many BP claimants

by: Joseph F. Rice

As I reported back in July of 2015, BP might finally, six years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, be changing its tune. For many reasons, I think 2016 will be a better year for many people, especially Gulf Coast business owners who are still suffering from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

A new review option is being made available to many Business Economic Loss (BEL) claimants (under the Economic and Property Damages Settlement Agreement) whose claim is under $35,000 pre-Risk Transfer Premium (RTP). This is good news because the new proposed option will allow for a quick review of claims, allowing much needed relief to get in the hands of business owners faster.

The process will basically verify all the required documents, including the claimant’s profit and loss statements are filed. Then the Claims office will use the Profit and Losses statements (P&L’s) as filed by the claimant to determine the final compensation amount under the Annual Variable Margin (AVM) Methodology. BP has agreed not to seek appeals on these compensation amount determinations, however, it may still request to verify items such as zone classification, tourism designation or that the claim is truly eligible for AVM review. Unfortunately we feel that many claimants have been subjected to frivolous appeals by BP in an effort to bottleneck the claims process. I think this is going to stop. This new review option is supported by BP and should move a lot of claims in next few months.

Each claimant that qualifies for this fast review option will still have the right to decide whether or not to accept the Determination, or to seek re-review or reconsideration on some basis. If a claimant requests re-review or reconsideration, the claim will be returned for a full review by the program accountants. However, a request for re-review or reconsideration that is made solely for the purpose of seeking Accountant Support Reimbursement will not trigger a full review.

Again, this new process applies to BEL claims under $35,000 pre-RTP.

This new process development is significant, especially coupled with BP’s October 2015 decision to withdraw its appeal of Judge Barbier’s ruling that it was not allowed to “claw back” payments from BEL claimants and BP’s withdrawing its motion to enjoin distribution of the Seafood Compensation Fund balance.

Then there was also the $18.7 billion settlement BP agreed to with government entities last July. For all of these positive and agreeable steps by BP, I am hopeful that 2016 will finally bring some relief that BP claimants have been hoping for all too long.