It’s been six years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill explosion that killed eleven people and spilled hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
BP has spent billions of dollars to settle damage claims, but thousands of people are still waiting on a check. The 2010 BP oil spill holds several dubious distinctions, the main one being that it is still the single worst man-made disaster in U.S. history. Another distinction is that the Department of Justice says BP has paid the largest legal settlement by a single entity in U.S history.
Not only did the spill cause significant environmental damage, it also caused economic havoc on the five gulf coastal states.
After years of hard work and investing his live savings, Patrick Green decided to expand his local business, Panama City Diving, in March of 2010.
“I was terrified – not at first – because I couldn’t conceive of how bad it was going to be, concerning the tourists season,” said Green.
Green was optimistic going into the summer season, but all that changed on April 20 with the oil rig explosion.
The oil never caused any significant damage on local beaches, but the nationwide coverage scared away the tourists.
“Our charter business dried up. Fourth of July was the slowest time I have ever had in my life,” said Green.
BP set up a claims department to settle damage claims by individuals. The department received a total of 383,000 claims, and more than 100,000 were from Florida. Patrick Green’s claim was one of them.
“I keep thinking BP is going to make things right; there is this program in place, and they are going to pay everyone the money they are owed,” said Green. “I found out, that wasn’t quite right.”
Green estimated his business lost more than $200,000 in revenue in 2010. He says BP the settlement offer was $25,000. Green declined the offer.
Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson says thousands of BP claims are still unresolved.
“Whenever it takes years and years to process a claim, there is no excuse for that,” said Nelson.
According to Nelson, of the nearly 400,000 claims received, approximately 95,000 have been denied, and more than 50,000 are still awaiting a decision.
“We have handled so many of these claims for Floridians by running interference for them, and have generally been successful, but for the poor folks that still can’t get an answer, it’s time,” said Nelson.
For some like Green, it may mean a trip to court. He joined a class action lawsuit against BP. He says he’s given up too much and has suffered too long, not to fight for what he thinks is right.
“My thought process was I made it through. I got a lot of debt as a result, and I want all of it back,” said Green.
Sen. Nelson called on the court-appointed administrator of the BP oil spill claims fund to expedite the review of tens of thousands of claims that are still outstanding.