Sunday, May 02, 2010

Alabama: Oil Spill - BP Officials meet residents of Bayou La Batre

It was a packed house at the community center in Bayou La Batre. With no air conditioning it was also a sweaty, hothouse. Officials from BP, the Coast Guard and others tried to update an uncomfortable crowd on the oil spill. At times the meeting was tense. One man grabbed the microphone and called it BP propaganda. A BP spokesman updated the room on what they're doing to contain the spill and offered numbers for people to file claims with the company. Bayou La Batre Mayor Stan Wright urged fishermen not to sign anything with the company if they do get a settlement.

People left the meeting with some contact sheets, but many wanted more.

“You know I just think there's so many questions they don't have answers for all of them yet, they seem to be doing the best they can with what they have to work with,” says charter and commercial fisherman Skipper Thiery. Most people wanted some idea of how the oil spill was going to affect them and their way of life--something we won't really know until the oil gets here.

From another source:

On Saturday afternoon May 1, as the oil spill continued to work its way onto the northern Gulf Coast, BP held what it had said would be a public information meeting in the south Alabama fishing town of Bayou La Batre. Those in attendance included town leaders, fishermen, local business owners and townspeople, all of whom are certain to be economically damaged by the oil slick now bearing down on the coastline. However, BP converted the public meeting into a public relations and litigation ploy. BP told the fishermen, business owners and local officials present that it will be unnecessary for them to hire their own legal counsel, that if they call a BP 1-800 telephone number and claim total damages for themselves and their businesses of less than $5,000 dollars, then BP would pay a claim of less than $5,000 but the damaged individuals and businesses in Bayou La Batre will be required to sign BP paperwork. If the claim against BP is more than $5,000, BP told the audience they would be required to deal directly with BP's legal department.

Local town leaders took the microphone from the BP representative, and told the townspeople present not to sign BP’s paperwork.

It is astonishing that BP, with its hordes of high-priced lawyers, would tell innocent victims not to obtain legal help for themselves, and that BP would try to lure these victims into dealing directly with BP's legal department.