Kenneth Feinberg, in his new role overseeing compensation for oil spill victims, told a congressional committee Wednesday that he believes BP PLC should be made to pay for injuries that occur during clean-up.
The question has come up before, as lawmakers wondered about the long-term health effects of chemical dispersants used in the Gulf of Mexico.
Feinberg said that no one has filed a claim yet related to an injury from those dispersants. But, he said, he believes that the final guidelines for approving claims should allow for compensating such injuries.
“We’re working on that,” Feinberg said in his opening statement at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. “I am of the view,” he added, “that we need to get some expertise on the likelihood of latent claims.”
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said that flexibility to allow such claims is important because, as happened after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it can take years for people to develop health problems after a disaster. “We have no idea how prevalent or common this is going to be,” Nadler said.
Feinberg, the managing partner of Feinberg Rozen in Washington, is set to assume responsibility over oil spill claims next month, taking over the job from BP itself. He told lawmakers he is still finalizing the guidelines he’ll use in determining which claims for compensation are valid.
Other issues still to be determined: compensation for Gulf Coast residents who worked in cash-only businesses and have no verification of their income; when an indirect victim, such as a T-shirt manufacturer that supplies Gulf Coast businesses, has a valid claim; and whether real estate agents along the Gulf Coast should receive compensation.
Feinberg said he’s getting close to decisions on those questions, signaling, for example, that he thinks the real estate industry has a legitimate claim.“If we’re really going to do justice here, we’ve got to do something,” he said.