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Whistleblower: Relief payments get slashed if fishermen refuse to work for BP

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, July 6, 2010 23:25 EDT
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Any relief payment plan established in the wake of the worst environmental accident ever was bound to have its flaws, but this goes to a whole new level of wrong.

According to Gulf resident Kindra Arnesen, who turned whistleblower and full-time activist when she saw how many people were put out of work by the spill, BP will deduct money from individual payments on claims for lost income if the claimant refuses to work in assisting the spill response.

Reading from a letter she’d received from BP, Arnesen quoted the company’s line:

“BP will continue its efforts to pay legitimate claims for losses incurred due to the Deepwater Horizon incident. However, federal law clearly provides for adjustments for all income resulting from the incident, all income from alternative employment or businesses undertaken [...] and potential income from alternative employment or businesses not undertaken but reasonably available.”

In other words, if you are a fisherman who was put out of work by BP and you do not elect to work in their employ, but you still file a claim for losses over the Deepwater Horizon disaster, that claim could be significantly less than the actual damages incurred.

Arnesen, a fisherman’s wife and longtime Louisiana resident, has been a true pitbull of an activist since she began popping up in area media. Finally, at the beginning of June, she gained enough notoriety that CNN picked up her story. She was one of the first to raise hell over reports of fishermen getting sick, allegedly from the oil and dispersant fumes coming off the Gulf.

Her husband David is one of thousands who opted to work for BP after the oil contaminated his usual fishing routes. She believes he was one of many who were sickened by BP’s toxic vapors.

BP CEO Tony Hayward tried to pass off the multiple boats full of sick fishermen as “food poisoning.” The company has since discouraged use of respirators because they don’t want the task to appear dangerous. However, RFK Center President Kerry Kennedy traveled to the Gulf Coast to talk to cleanup workers and found that BP’s active denial of proper safety equipment was having a serious health effect.

“In all three states that I’ve visited, fishermen said when they went out to work on the cleanup, that if they tried to bring respirators they were told it was unnecessary equipment and would only spread hysteria,” Kennedy told Fox News.

“When I went out with eleven people, we had respirators on and within half an hour, all of our eyes were burning and our throats were closing and we all had headaches,” she explained.

That got Kindra mad as hell.

In an amazing display of gusto, even with the possibility that she’d endanger his income by damaging their relationship with BP, Arnesen showed up absolutely livid to a citizens emergency summit on June 19. Her speech quickly gained traction in progressive media after she claimed BP’s directors were eager to cut costs and merely put on a show every time a politician swings through, ushering cleanup crews out almost as fast as they’re ushered in.

Visibly disturbed by BP’s concise statement on relief payments, Arnesen jeered: “They summed it up in one paragraph: billions upon billions for coastal communities. One paragraph. One paragraph? This is what they think? That we’re gonna clean up their toxic shit? For the same price that we’re gonna pick up shrimp? Are they loony? Have they lost their minds?”

“Am I scared? Yes,” Arnesen told CNN. “Anything that ever starts, starts with one. And if I have to be the one then I have to be the one.”

The team that filmed her, Project Gulf Impact, also recently landed an interview with Dr. Chris Pincetich, a marine biologist, who claimed that the U.S. Coast Guard is involved in spraying Corexit oil dispersant and that the substance has made it ashore.

This video was published to YouTube by Project Gulf Impact on July 4, 2010.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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