To show how the money flowed, ProPublica* interviewed people who worked on the spill and examined records for St. Bernard Parish, a coastal community about five miles southeast of downtown New Orleans.*ProPublica is a non-profit corporation based in New York City. It describes itself as an independent non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. In 2010 it became the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Those documents show that companies with ties to parish insiders got lucrative contracts and then charged BP for every possible expense. The prime cleanup company submitted bills with little or no documentation. A subcontractor billed BP $15,400 per month to rent a generator that usually cost $1,500 a month. Another company charged BP more than a $1 million a month for land it had been renting for less than $1,700 a month....
The economic benefits rippled throughout the gulf. In the six months after the spill, sales tax receipts, a key measure of economic activity, rose significantly in eight of the 24 most affected communities from Louisiana to Florida. In only one community, in Mississippi, did receipts dip significantly.
Sales tax collections from Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish rose more than 71 percent. And St. Bernard had a bigger jump than anywhere. That parish collected almost $26.8 million in sales and lodging tax receipts in the six months after the spill, almost twice as much as over the same period in 2009. Flush with cash from cleanup and claims, many fishermen bought new boats and trucks. Sales at the nearest Chevrolet dealer rose 41 percent...
The $20 billion compensation fund that BP and the federal government set up in August would run for three years, pay people who could prove damages from the spill and in theory avoid costly court battles... The system didn’t differentiate between fishermen who got cleanup jobs with BP and those who didn’t. The amount people received for their initial six-month emergency claims was based on the paperwork they submitted, not their actual losses.
One man who earned $67,000 in 2009, fishing crabs and hunting a swamp rat called nutria, got $100,000 for his six-month claim. That was on top of $90,000 for working on the cleanup and $20,000 he received in initial BP claims. In the eight months after the spill, he made $210,000, more than three times his 2009 income...
Felesia Carter, a manager at St. Bernard’s only off-track betting parlor, said customers were gambling away claims money. Her business was so good, she said, that employees worked overtime.
21 April 2011
The BP well blowout in the Gulf has drifted off the front pages of national media coverage. This past week the Washington Post featured an article explaining how people are getting quite rich as a result of the spill and the subsequent cleanup efforts.