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Oil-Spill Fund Chief Sees $2.3 Billion in Payments as First Phase Ends

By SIOBHAN HUGHES

The lawyer overseeing the $20 billion fund to compensate victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on Wednesday said that he expected emergency-claims requests to total 450,000 and result in some $2.3 billion in payments, even as undocumented claims continue to tie up the process.

Kenneth Feinberg, the independent administrator of the fund, made the estimate the day after the deadline for requesting emergency payments. He expressed optimism about meeting a Dec. 15 deadline for processing emergency claims. Businesses and individuals have until Aug. 13, 2013, to request lump-sum payments, which require them to waive their rights to sue.

“It will take us a while to go through all of those emergency payments,” Mr. Feinberg said. “Fraud is a serious problem.”

The update came as he simultaneously released an analysis by Harvard University law professor John Goldberg that found that the Oil Pollution Control Act is designed to set a limit on the liability facing polluters by making proximity to a spill a major requirement for submitting a valid legal claim. That poses complications for claims filed in court from other states, where some businesses and individuals already complain that they are being treated unfairly.

“I am determined to be more generous than the court would be or the Coast Guard would be in considering these proximity claims, primarily in Florida,” Mr. Feinberg said.

He has been facing particular criticism from businesses in Alabama, who say they have been short-changed in the claims process. Rep. Jo Bonner (R., Ala.) has asked the Justice Department to step in and oversee the matter, concerned that claims submitted from Alabama have been ignored or put on hold in perpetuity.

“Having heard the criticism I am coming back to Alabama,” Mr. Feinberg said. He said that he has already made adjustments to some claims from Alabama businesses.

The $20 billion fund is intended to compensate people and businesses harmed by the April explosion of an oil rig leased by BP PLC in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and triggered the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Write to Siobhan Hughes at siobhan.hughes@dowjones.com

source: Oil-Spill Fund Chief Sees $2.3 Billion in Payments as First Phase Ends – WSJ.com

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