Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35), an outspoken advocate for Gulf Coast residents, fishermen and businesses harmed by the oil spill, participated in a House Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Ensuring Justice for Victims of the Gulf Coast Oil Disaster”.
Congresswoman Waters is especially concerned about the plight of small communities of minority fishermen and oyster farmers who depend on the Gulf Coast’s natural resources. Many of them have been unable to work since the spill. “We must ensure that these communities are considered and their interests are protected in the claims process. For generations, people like those whom I met recently on the Louisiana Gulf Coast – many of them African-American – have made a living and supported their families from shrimp and oysters, and now their wellbeing is in great jeopardy,” she said.
During the hearing, Congresswoman Waters asked Kenneth Feinberg, the Administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, who is responsible for processing the claims of oil spill victims and overseeing the $20 billion Gulf Coast Escrow Fund, a series of questions about the procedures for submitting and resolving claims.
In response, Mr. Feinberg complimented Congresswoman Waters, saying, “As you usually do, Congresswoman, you’ve anticipated a question I haven’t thought of yet, and I will look into it.”
See video of the exchange between Congresswoman Waters and Kenneth Feinberg below:
Congresswoman Waters also praised Mr. Feinberg, telling him, “It gives me a level of comfort that you are in a position to construct and implement this claims process. I appreciate the work that you did after 9/11 with New York, and I am looking forward to your creating the kind of protocol that will provide for a fair claims process and will compensate appropriately all those who have been harmed as a result of the oil spill.”
She added, “Detailed protocols must be developed and information about the claims process must be widely circulated so that the oyster farmers and fishermen understand clearly what forms of documentation will be acceptable to prove their economic losses. It is essential that Kenneth Feinberg partner with local community groups, non-profit organizations, legal aid services and law schools in the region to ensure that minority fishermen also fully understand the claims process and are able to make informed decisions.”
The House of Representatives has passed two bills in response to the BP oil spill that will prevent future spills and improve cleanup efforts.
The Safer Oil and Natural Gas Drilling Technology Research and Development Program (H.R. 5716) will promote R & D related to technologies for accident prevention, worker safety and environmental protection.
The Oil Pollution Research and Development Program Reauthorization (H.R. 2693) will spur innovation to develop new methods and technologies for oil spill cleanup. “Unfortunately, emergency responders working to clean up the BP spill have to rely on the same technologies used for the Exxon Valdez more than 20 years ago. Certainly, American innovation is capable of producing newer and better methods,” said Congresswoman Waters.