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Feinberg Explains Oil Spill Compensation as He Prepares to Take Over

Kenneth Feinberg will take over BP’s claims process for victims of the Gulf oil spill on Aug. 23. As that date fast approaches, Feinberg is rounding out his tour of the Gulf, explaining to residents just how his new compensation program will work.

“On Aug. 23, there is no more BP claims, gone. Now I assume responsibility for processing all claims,” Feinberg said at a forum today at the University of West Florida.

Feinberg repeated many of the statements he’s made at similar forums. He told residents that they do not have to participate in the claims process he is setting up. All residents have the right to sue BP or apply for compensation under current federal or state laws. But Feinberg said his process will likely offer residents the most money.

“I’ve decided that I’d like to be more generous and more accommodating than if you filed a lawsuit under” federal or state law, Feinberg said.

As I’ve noted before, those who have lost income from the spill have until Thanksgiving to apply for six months of emergency compensation. After Thanksgiving and until Aug. 23, 2012, victims will apply for a lump-sum payment for current and future damages from the spill. If they accept that long-term payment, they will be required to sign a waiver that would prohibit them from suing BP for future damages.

This system, as I’ve reported, could require experts to predict impacts of the spill years down the road, in some cases before those impacts are adequately understood. Feinberg, speaking at the forum, said he would base the long-term claims on an “agreed-upon view of future risk”

Feinberg also said he would approve claims based on three basic criteria: proximity to the Gulf, a claimant’s dependence on Gulf natural resources and the industry that is affected. Proximity to the spill will be a major factor, he said, noting that he’s seen claims from 48 states, most of which don’t have adequate evidence to show significant economic damages.

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