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How the BP Oil Spill Update has Impacted the Shell Beach Community

Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on May 12, 2010 in Environmental Law

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those impacted by the BP Oil Spill. This blog entry is about what I observed in Shell Beach as I drove through this community. But before I get to that, I want to provide some information about the claim process and on where things stand with the BP Oil Spill. BP has set up a claims hotline for those impacted by the spill. To make a claim, you need to call 1-800-440-0858. There is also a St. Bernard Parish Deepwater claims center in operation from 8 am to 8 pm. However, if you have not first called the 800 number to get a BP Claim Number, you will not be able to meet with an adjuster at the claims center. To make a claim you will need your fishing license, registration, ID Cards, your social security number, monthly profit/loss statements, and trip tickets for July through April.

St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro is calling for vendors of hard and soft boom to email proposals to him at ctaffaro@sbpg.net asap. There are reports that the oil has affected birds where it has reached the Chandeleur Islands and there are reports of oil on Freemason Island. There have been 5 oil burns by BP in the last 24 hours. 7200 gallons of dispersant were applied yesterday. 17,500 barrels of water/oil mix were also applied. St Bernard continues with its booming efforts. 1976 feet of soft boom and 12,400 feet of hard boom were deployed Sunday. The US Coast Guard has confirmed that oil sheen has reached the Chandeleur Island.

The BP Oil Spill is already having a huge negative impact on the good people who live in, and work out of Shell Beach which is in St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana. This is a small fishing community about an hour from New Orleans, and very close to Chalmette. The people who live there are amongst the best fishermen in the world-everything they do revolves around fish, oyster and shrimp. The fishing essentially identifies many of these people in terms of what they live for. It is their passion. It is their hobby. It is the center of their social life. They live, breath and will die fishing. Many commercial fishermen have their wives and family members working with them as "deck hands" and/or cleaning the fish that are caught. These Louisiana Commercial Fishermen go out and fish for oyster, shrimp and other fish in the Gulf of Mexico. The BP Oil Leak has invaded their turf, and as we speak, oil continues to kill the fish, oyster and shrimp that are their livelihood. This is the fishing season when they essentially make their money for the entire year. I had the opportunity to meet with several commercial fishermen and deckhands. What I learned is that the people are basically in a state of shock. They do not know what the future holds and this is causing them to feel a lot of anxiety. Two gentleman who I met, Brad Assevedo and Leo Lauricella gave me a great deal of insight as to just how this disaster has wreaked havoc on their everyday life and the everyday life of their friends and family. Brad Assevedo is 26 years old and has basically fished/packed seafood every day of his life. Although he did not graduate from High School, he is bright, articulate and intelligent. He became a fisherman because that is what everyone in has family has done for several generations. He explained to me the fishing geography as it exists around the Louisiana Coast, and how the oyster leases and oyster beds are impacted by the oil spill. Brad and Leo are scared and uneasy about what the future holds for them and their family. They want to fish. I met with other individuals including a gentleman named Donnie Smith. Donnie is married, has two kids and also helps take care of his brother who lost an arm in a fishing accident. Donnie is very angry about the situation. He said "I am a fisherman. I suppose I could go get another job, but I don't want to. I want to fish." Donnie is angry and feels that he was mistreated by BP and the Parish. I will never forget the look of urgency and desperation in Donnie's eyes as he told me "I just want my life back. I'm going to see a psychiatrist but I swear I am not nuts."

There seems to be deep concern in the community about how the jobs that are available through BP and the Parish are being handed out. Basically, the feeling is that you have to know someone and/or be politically connected to get hired. Apparently the pay checks are coming from the Parish and not directly from BP. Basically the parish seems to be in control of who gets the work and who does not. To get the work, you need to take a course offered by BP. BP is not letting everyone take the class. To get the work and to run a boat, you also need to be able to prove that you are a parish resident. This is creating complications and resentment for many who lived in St. Bernard Parish, but then moved after Katrina to Alabama or Texas, then came back to Shell Beach recently. These individuals have out of state driver;s licenses that do not indicate their St. Bernard Parish residency. Therefore, they are out of luck and cannot get work for BP.

From what I observed, the people of St. Bernard Parish and Shell Beach are extremely concerned about what the future holds for them. Everyone wants to do what they can to save their livelihood and get the cleanup on track. There was a general sense of sadness, desperation and anger. Again our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Shell Beach as they continue with this struggle. We are proud to be representing those individuals and businesses impacted by this disaster with Dan Robin and John Finckbeiner, and are going to fight hard to be sure that BP pays full compensation to those it has hurt.

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