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Friday, September 3, 2010

Gov. Jindal keeps pressing BP to pay for seafood testing and marketing

Posted: Friday, September 03, 2010 Gov. Jindal keeps pressing BP to pay for seafood testing and marketing SEAFOOD.COM NEWS [Houma Today] By Naomi King - September 3, 2010 - SCHRIEVER - Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Wednesday the completion of nine detailed transition plans for 11 coastal parishes recovering from the BP oil spill, raised concerns about the claims process and called on the oil company to pay for a $173 million seafood testing and marketing plan. “We've been extremely frustrated by BP's lack of a positive response to the state's proposal,” Jindal said. “They spent $93 million on advertisements over the last few months. We're not even asking them to spend $93 million per quarter over the next five years.” Each parish will be consulted as BP carries out its transition of people and equipment from cleanup to recovery in the Gulf of Mexico, Jindal said during a news conference with coastal parish presidents at the BP command center in Schriever. Jindal spoke after the meeting with parish presidents, BP officials, Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft, who is overseeing the spill response along the Gulf Coast, and Ken Feinberg, the private administrator of the $20 billion claims fund. TRANSITION PLANS The transition plans were not made available but will be publicly released later, Coast Guard officials said. Jindal said the state, BP, the Coast Guard and each parish president signed off on the plans, which cover the use of booms, skimmers and workers. Parish presidents, including those in Terrebonne and Lafourche, had asked for a direct hand in developing the plans because each parish has different needs, geography and impacts. Each parish president will be part of any decision to move equipment in or out of communities. Following the conference, Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph said her parish will remove boom from local waters that can damage marshes during strong storms and has sent vacuum barges away because they were ineffective. Now, plans are locally tailored, and parishes will be consulted before equipment is moved out, she said. “We finally got what we wanted,” Randolph said. Jindal and local parish presidents also said BP agreed to give priority to local fishermen and workers in the Vessels of Opportunity when assigned recovery work, such as removing boom and testing for sub-surface oil. The federal government and independent studies have given different estimates on how much of the millions of barrels leaked from the Macondo Well is left in the Gulf of Mexico. Some scientists have said large underwater plumes of oil, consisting of tiny droplets, remain. Jindal said underwater testing is “incomplete,” and he's asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to give an update on the location of any oil left over from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the nation's worst-ever oil spill. He said additional testing is still needed, and NOAA acknowledges more should be done closer to shore. Zukunft said the Coast Guard is meeting with scientists to share data so a clear assessment of underwater conditions is given to residents. SEAFOOD SAFETY Long-term seafood testing that goes above federal standards will restore the nation's confidence in Louisiana seafood, Jindal said. But BP will not agree to the state's proposed five-year plan, which includes 400 samples per month. The state, the federal Food and Drug Administration and NOAA are testing Louisiana seafood, Jindal said, but BP should shoulder the cost. As the cleanup winds down and fishermen are released from the Vessels of Opportunity program, they will want to go back to harvesting and processing seafood, he said. “They can't go back to work if there isn't a market for that seafood. They can't go back to work if the testing's not there,” Jindal said. SPILL CLAIMS Jindal and state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell opposes requiring people who seek claims from BP to give up their rights to sue BP for damages if they accept a final, lump-sum payment for damages. “We want to make sure people are not being required to prematurely give up those legal rights they've got under federal law,” Jindal said. “The extent of the damage of this oil spill is not completely known.” Under draft protocols for the claims process, the right to sue will be waived if a larger settlement is agreed to at a later time. The short-term payments of up to six months of losses have no effect on a claimant's right to sue. Ken Feinberg, the lawyer overseeing the $20 billion trust fund for spill claims, met with Jindal and the parish presidents via conference phone Wednesday. State and local officials also said claims are taking longer to process than previously stated by Feinberg. Feinberg had said individual claims for lost wages would be processed and paid within 48 hours. Feinberg agreed that the expectations need to be more realistic, Jindal said. Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet said Feinberg also agreed to visit communities again, especially those experiencing problems with the claims process, such as the unexpected closing of the claims center in Chauvin. “We do believe Mr. Feinberg will work very hard to correct those problems,” Claudet said. Copyright © 2010 HoumaToday.com Ken Coons Seafood.com 1-781-861-1441 kencoons@seafood.com

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