O’Brien’s Response Management Shifting Blame
BP responds to nonpayment complaints
Firm hired to address subcontractors claiming they weren’t paid for oil spill cleanup
A day after several businesses complained about nonpayment for work cleaning up the Mississippi Coast following the Gulf oil spill, the energy giant responded.
BP hired O’Brien’s Response Management to manage the cleanup, and subcontractors expecting payment should contact them directly, BP spokesman Ray Melick said Wednesday.
“We’re paying our primary contractors and we expect the primary contractors to honor their agreement in a timely and professional manner,” he said.
Ricky Myers, owner of Rhino Construction in Bay St. Louis, said his company is owed $650,000. Myers spoke Tuesday at the state Capitol on behalf of 40 other subcontractors he says are awaiting payment.
He estimated the companies are owed at least $280 million for their work.
O’Brien’s spokesman Tim O’Leary said the firm is making timely and appropriate payments to its direct contractors.
“O’Brien’s has paid to the prime contractor in Mississippi, United States Environmental Services, at least 90 percent of all amounts invoiced, typically within a week after receiving funds from BP,” he said in a statement.
“Rhino Construction has no direct business or contractual relationship with O’Brien’s, has not submitted invoices directly to O’Brien’s, nor should receive invoice payments directly from O’Brien’s. Rhino Construction’s allegations against O’Brien’s concerning invoicing and payment are unfounded and without merit.”
Attempts to reach United States Environment Services were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Myers said his company has never claimed to have a contractual relationship with O’Brien’s.
“Rhino Construction’s position is that O’Brien’s customer, BP, states they have paid every dime owed to O’Brien’s. Yet, dozens of companies who worked on this project have not received payment in full. Not only have they not been paid every week, most of them have not received a payment in the last several months.”
Myers said O’Brien’s appears to be shifting blame for its lack of responsiveness.
Meanwhile in Washington, Gulf Coast groups and administration officials said most of the money BP will pay in fines related to the spill should be spent hiring local residents to help restore the region’s ecosystem.
You have to get the money to the people who are the most vulnerable,” the Rev. Tyronne Edwards, executive director of Zion Travelers Cooperative Center in Braithwaite, La., said during a forum hosted by Oxfam and the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank based in Washington.
The two groups released a report suggesting ways to help with recovery. Among other recommendations, it urges Congress to finance Gulf Coast recovery efforts using 80 percent of the fine money BP will pay under the Clean Water Act.
Gulf Coast lawmakers and White House officials say fine money also should be used to set up a federal trust fund to restore and protect the region’s fragile wetlands.
“It remains essential that Congress act on that,” Melody Barnes, the White House domestic policy adviser, said.
President Barack Obama set up a task force last October to address the Gulf’s post-spill problems.
“It’s not just about the oil spill – the Gulf has had significant issues for a long time,” said John Hankinson, executive director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. “It’s critical that we restore ecosystems.”
Washington Bureau correspondent Deborah Barfield Berry contributed to this report.
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