VENICE, Jun 17 – Those affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill welcomed Wednesday BP\’s claim fund, but doubted 20 billion dollars would cover the cost of America\’s worst ever environmental disaster.
"It is probably the best news I\’ve gotten since this thing started. It gives us some security for the future," said Brent Roy, whose fishing charter business in Venice, Louisiana has been shut down for a month due to the spill.
In a watershed day for the crisis, BP executives agreed Wednesday to set aside 20 billion dollars in an independently run escrow account and announced a 100-million-dollar foundation to help jobless rig workers.
"I don\’t think it\’s necessarily going to be enough," warned Roy, a father of three young boys. "What I\’m seeing now is not only the oil killing the wildlife, but also the marsh, which expedites our coastal erosion."
After his White House meeting with President Barack Obama, chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg insisted BP did care about the fate of the "small people" hit by the spill and vowed to look after all those affected.
But Clancy DuBos, co-owner and columnist of Louisiana\’s largest weekly newspaper, Gambit Weekly, said the British energy giant had some way to go to satisfy angry Louisianans with livelihoods on the line.
"Twenty billion dollars is a good start," he admitted. "It\’s a good show of faith on BP\’s part.
"It\’s also important that they do a better job of working with local, state and federal governments to marshal forces that are needed to clean up the oil that is already out there and the oil that is expected to come to the marshes and beaches. This thing is far from over."
Cheron Brylski, a New Orleans public relations consultant, said the fund should have been pumped up to 30 billion dollars, the equivalent of what she had heard BP America was worth.
But she expressed serious concerns about the long-term health effects as the spill ordeal drags into its ninth week and the hurricane season approaches.
"I wish now we had never used the dispersants. Is the Gulf going to be a dead zone?" she asked. "It\’s hard to make plans. BP has all the data."
Darryl Malek-Wiley, a senior organizer for the Sierra Club environmental group, told AFP the devil would be in the detail and worried the money might not trickle down to the individuals really impacted by the disaster.
He gave Obama, whose leadership over the crisis has come in for fierce criticism, credit for winning the concessions from BP and for trips to the Gulf that were beginning to alleviate local concerns.
"I think we are seeing real leadership out of the White House," he said.
On Monday and Tuesday, the president made his fourth visit to the Gulf region since the disaster, touring the other affected states of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida for the first time.
"Every day I think it\’s getting better," Roy acknowledged.
"From what I can tell, and who knows with politics, he has come down here to find out what the problems were. A friend of mine, another charter boat captain, sat down one-on-one with Obama and told him what the problems were."
Roy, who expects to spend Father\’s Day on Sunday working for BP\’s "Vessels of Opportunity" oil clean up program, also praised BP\’s treatment of 50 former charter boat captains in Venice all but put out of business by the spill.
"They put us to work and they are paying our claims. The people working with us at the BP claim office — there\’s one in Venice and one in Gretna — have bent over backwards," he said.