Coast Guard Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund
Few applying to U.S. Coast Guard’s oil spill claims center
Fewer than a hundred claims have rolled into the appeals process run by the U.S. Coast Guard for oil spill compensation.
By contrast, more than 440,000 people and businesses have filed claims with Ken Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility, with more than 67,000 already denied.
The Coast Guard’s National Pollution Fund Center can review any claim that has been denied or has gone more than 90 days without being settled by the responsible party. In this case, the party can be either BP PLC, majority owner of the well that spawned the summer’s massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, or Feinberg’s operation, which took over individual and business compensation on Aug. 23.
The Coast Guard has “surged” its staffing in preparation for Gulf spill claims, but has received only 85 claims so far, according to spokeswoman Lisa Novak
Of the 85, adjusters have rejected 14, while the others are still being evaluated, she said.
The Coast Guard has yet to approve a claim for payment, Novak said, because its process involves appeals, which typically come from only the most complicated cases.
Bert Sanders, an accountant with Gulf Shores-based Grant, Sanders & Taylor PC, is handling many claims for businesses along the beach. Despite the very public frustration among businesses there with Feinberg’s process, Sanders said he knows of no Alabama claimant who has tried the Coast Guard’s process.
“But I’m not going to be surprised if we don’t see some soon,” he said. “For some companies here that have been denied, that may be their only option short of filing litigation.”
A spokesman for Gov. Bob Riley said this week that there has been little attention directed to the Coast Guard process.
“Our office is still reviewing the process it uses regarding claims,” said Riley spokesman Jeff Emerson. “We didn’t know much about it until recently because Feinberg said the way to get claims paid was through him and that he was going to do that quickly.”
Emerson said that Riley was “surprised” that the appeals process had never come up during Riley’s conversations with Feinberg.
The Coast Guard has a staff of experts trained in dealing with oil spills and claims adjudication under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, Novak said.
Should it decide to award money, payments would be made from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, then BP would be billed, Novak said. As in Feinberg’s final claims process, Coast Guard claimants must agree not to sue BP if they accept a payment.
People who filed claims with BP but never filed claims with the Claims Facility can go straight to the Coast Guard, but Novak said the agency is encouraging people to first try Feinberg’s process.
Feinberg has paid nearly $2 billion to individuals and businesses across the coast, but the operation has been dogged by complaints in recent weeks that large businesses are receiving only a fraction of what they’re requesting.
Feinberg said last week that he believed his process would offer the best compensation to people and businesses harmed by the spill.
“But if they’re still unhappy, if they don’t trust me, go to OPA (the Oil Pollution Act), let the Coast Guard review your claim,” he said. “If you don’t like what the Coast Guard offers, you can file a lawsuit.”
For more information about the Coast Guard appeals process, call 1-800-280-7118 or see www.uscg.mil/npfc/claims/.