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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jeff Atwater adds to complaints about BP claims czar Kenneth Feinberg

2

September

In a harshly worded letter to the federal government's BP claims czar Kenneth Feinberg, Senate President Jeff Atwater bascially tells him: don't screw up.

"I have become increasingly troubled by reports of delays in the claims process, artificial and capricious deadlines on filing, and an apparent insensitivity to the very real, long term impacts of this tragic accident on the families and small businesses of Florida,'' Atwater wrote. He then went on to say that he hopes he'll keep the victims in mind.

Yesterday, several members of the governor's oil spill recovery task force expressed similar frustrations.

Here's the letter:



Dear Mr. Feinberg:

Along with many of my fellow Floridians, I was relieved to hear that on June 16, President Obama finally appointed an administrator to oversee the claims process for the Deepwater Horizon accident, and that you, as administrator, had been specifically charged with fairly and equitably disbursing BP funds to the victims of this catastrophe. After many weeks of uncertainty, we took great comfort from the fact that there was now to be an impartial adjudicator in place to address the needs of Floridians impacted by this disaster.

In the intervening weeks, however, I have become increasingly troubled by reports of delays in the claims process, artificial and capricious deadlines on filing, and an apparent insensitivity to the very real, long term impacts of this tragic accident on the families and small businesses of Florida. I was shocked to hear you quoted as suggesting that pictures on television were the best indication that circumstances here in Florida are “fabulous.” Not only do the residents of Florida have to bear the ongoing pain of an uncertain future, but they have now been dealt the further indignity of having their legitimate concerns publicly and cavalierly dismissed by the very individual in whose hands their future economic viability has been placed. The citizens of Florida deserve far better. 

To that end, I would respectfully call upon you to commit to three overarching principles as you move forward with this process. First, you will do everything in your power to avoid adding needless layers of bureaucracy to the claims process, providing greater opportunity for Floridians to receive what is rightfully theirs due to the negligence of BP or any other party. Secondly, that there will be no interruption of the claims paying process, nor will you restrict the liability of any claimant, until the full and complete ecological impact of the oil release is understood within the larger scientific community. Finally, the end of the claims process will be determined by the needs of Floridians, not prematurely closed simply for the sake of expediency or to accommodate the wishes of BP. If Floridians are still making legitimate claims, there should be an ongoing and consistent process that recognizes the fluidity of the situation and grants claimants a fair hearing without surrendering any future rights to redress wrongs committed against them.

We cannot afford to compound the magnitude of the BP nightmare with ineptitude by the Federal government. I would expect to hear shortly that you have redirected your efforts towards the victims of this disaster, and that new policy changes will shortly be announced that are designed to quickly and efficiently deliver much needed aid and assistance to deserving Floridians.

 Sincerely,

Jeff Atwater

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:26am]

    

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