The fishermen of Louisiana are at great risk because of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This is, without a doubt, the greatest environmental tragedy of our lifetime. I've spent the better part of the last two weeks on the Gulf Coast shores of Louisiana and have had the good fortune to meet with dozens of fishermen, oystermen and small business owners along with Dan Robin, Esquire and John Finkbeiner, Esquire. I can only tell you that the fishermen, oystermen, shrimpers and small businesses in Southern Louisiana need our thoughts and prayers. We are committed to fight for them, and to hold BP (and Transocean, Cameron, and Haliburton) responsible for their crimes against nature.
Take St. Bernard Parish and Shell Beach for example. These good people were WIPED OUT by Hurricaine Katrina in 2005. They really just got their homes and boats rebuilt in the last year or two, and they were counting on this fishing season to pay off debt, and get their lives back on track. Many small businesses in the area had to take out loans after Katrina in order to meet their monthly obligations and they are still paying off these loans. I can only tell you that everyone in these communities are having a great sense of anxiety over what the future holds. Many of the commercial fishermen, oystermen, deckhands and shrimpers dropped out of high school or even middle school to become fishermen. These are very smart people. They just made a choice early in life that they wanted to be fishermen. Last week one fisherman said to me something that I will never forget. He said, "With Katrina I knew we were screwed but I also knew my family would never starve because I'm a fisherman. I would always be able to feed my family and put food on my table. This is different. For the first time, I feel totally vulnerable."
These are good hardworking people whose lives, well-being and livelihood have been put in great jeopardy again because of the gross negligence and criminal conduct of BP. Two weeks ago 60 Minutes aired an interview with Mike Williams who is one of the survivors of the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. He confirmed what many suspected. The explosion occurred because BP put corporate profits over human safety. In order to understand the extent of BP's culpability a bit of background information is needed. It was taking BP too long to drill the oil well, and they decided to cut corners and ordered the people on the rig to drill faster. Apparently the drilling operation was supposed to take 21 days but it took six weeks and to speed things up and make more money a BP Manager on the oil rig ordered the crew to drill faster. Drilling faster backfired and caused the bottom of the well to split open. Once this happened, that well was abandoned and BP drilled a new hole. BP apparently lost millions of dollars as a result of this mishap on the Deep Water Horizon Oil Rig which occurred several weeks before 4/20/10 explosion. This is just one of several safety mishaps that occurred in the days and weeks leading up to the Deep Water Horizon explosion. This is important background information to understand the extent of BP's culpability here. This explosion and environmental disaster occurred because BP put profits over safety. For those of you who have not seen the 60 minutes interview with Mike Williams--please watch it. It is infuriating and fascinating at the same time. Click here to see it: http://www.mediaite.com/tv/60-minutes-airs-riveting-interview-with-deepwater-horizon-survivor/
Some of the fishermen in Shell Beach, Venice and other areas have been working for BP helping to remove the oil. Unfortunately, some of the workers are getting sick and it is possible that they are being exposed to Benzene and other harmful and toxic chemicals. These fishermen are in a catch 22. Either they work and jeopardize their health, or choose not to work and lose out on the income that can feed their families.
Oh---and about the "compensation" that BP is paying out. BP is paying certain commercial fishermen only $5,000.00 for their lost income. While this is a good start, I really do not think BP's motives are sincere. I believe that its all about PR (public relations) to BP, and they have made a calculated decision that by making these payments people will delay in hiring an attorney, and the statute of limitations will run on many peoples claims. These payments, BP hopes, will make BP look like good corporate citizens and will keep the fishermen quiet. I am very concerned that these payments are luring the fishermen and small business owners in Louisiana into a false sense of security and causing people not to feel that they need to hire a lawyer. In fact, time is of the essence here. In Louisiana, there is a 1 year statute of limitations for certain common law claims and every week that goes by without a lawyer, is time ticking away on the statute of limitations clock. I would encourage anyone with significant financial losses to meet with a lawyer to discuss options. BP is gambling that by paying out a small amount of money now, people will be lulled into a false sense of security and will not hire an attorney. Do not trust BP. Their motives are not sincere. Did you hear that they may have bussed in workers to make it look like there were more than there actually were when President Obama was there?
By the way---if you are ever in Chalmette Louisiana you just have to eat at Rocky & Carlos which is located on St. Bernard Highway. The BEST baked macaroni & cheese I have ever had in my life!