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New Rules For BP Business Claims Are Issued

By Evelina Burnett | Published 19 Mar 2014 08:03pm | comments

Long-awaited rules for business claims stemming from the massive 2010 BP oil spill have been released.

But, as MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, some Mississippi businesses will probably have to wait a bit longer to get paid.

Payments to some businesses that claim they lost money after the oil spill have been on hold since BP won a federal appeal in early October. 

The settlement administrator was ordered to revise the policy on matching revenues and expenses; those new rules have finally been released. 

“Everyone has basically been waiting for this policy," says Ocean Springs attorney Robert Wiygul.

He worries the complexity of the new 88-page policy will make it difficult for businesses to predict if they have a claim.

“It’s a lengthy and complex policy," he says. "It applies different sorts of rules to different types of claims. But I think the bottom line is that businesses will have to submit their claim to see if they have a claim, and what the amount of that claim might be."

He adds: “There’s a lot of paperwork that has to be pulled together for a business to submit a claim, and under this policy, I think it’s going to be more difficult for businesses to know whether they should go through that process.”

Business economic loss claims could include retail stores whose sales tumbled after the oil spill, or hotels, building contractors, doctor's offices that saw business decline.

Ocean Springs attorney Steve Mullins says he believes, if there are no more successful appeals, the hold on payments could be lifted within the next two to three months. He says the delay in payments has already had a negative impact on businesses - and the coast economy.

"Right now none of this money is going into any of the impacted communities, and hasn't since October," he says. "So we're not getting any multiplier effects, or any economic development, or any positive impact from this at all.

"In fact, I think it's the opposite - it's negative. So businesses that were expecting money, didn't receive it, couldn't hire new people, couldn't buy new machinery, couldn't invest, and I know personally that a lot of them have put expansions and things on hold," he added.

In a statement, BP says the rules still fall short of what it wanted, but seem to be a "comprehensive effort."

Nearly 32,000 Mississippi claims have been submitted. About one-third of all claims are for business economic loss.

Full statement from BP: "BP believes that the CSSP's [Court Supervised Settlement Program] final policy for matching revenues and expenses falls short of fully adhering to the Fifth Circuit's directive, which affirmed BP's longstanding position that the business economic loss (BEL) framework must determine lost profits for claims in a way that reflects economic reality.  BP has offered precise, constructive suggestions for how to properly implement the BEL framework, which the CSSP has not adopted.  However, with certain exceptions, the final policy appears to reflect a comprehensive effort by the CSSP to create a permissible process for analyzing and processing BEL claims.  Proper implementation of the policy will be critical, and BP believes that the policy ultimately must be judged by whether it achieves the goals of the settlement agreement by ensuring that claim determinations reflect a realistic measure of actual economic losses."





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