Thursday, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R- Alabama) testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs' Subcommittee about the Gulf Coast oil spill claims process.
"Many may think this disaster is over. This is not true. Like many Alabamians, I remain extremely concerned regarding both the short and long term effects the oil will have on the Gulf Coast's economy and ecosystem," he said to committee members. " Alabama's Gulf Coast region may take decades to recuperate, and downstream effects could cripple the region for years to come."
Shelby says Alabama has experienced a 50 percent drop in tourism dollars and the loss of jobs as a result of the oil spill. He estimates the impact is between 850 million dollars and one billion- a figure that does not include losses in the fishing and shipyard industries.
"Alabama's fishing industry represents one of the largest economic engines in the state – accounting for more than $800 million in sales annually and nearly 18,000 jobs. The economic impact on the commercial and recreational fishing industry already is severe and extensive," he said. "We must ensure that individuals and businesses are compensated now, but also put in place mechanisms to assist them with rebuilding and restoration efforts as the Gulf continues to recover from this disaster."
The Alabama senator also stated that he'd met with Kenneth Feinberg, the claims czar. However, he says he has serious concerns about the determinations made by the Gulf Coast Claims Facilities.
"Nine months since the oil spill, 57 percent of claims in Alabama remain unpaid. This amounts to 38,604 individual and business claims that have not received one penny in funding. That is a startling statistic," he said. "Let me reiterate – Alabama has 38,604 outstanding claims, and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility is currently only processing 3 Alabama claims a day."
Shelby would also like Feinberg to explain to residents how claims are determined.
He concluded by saying he would like Congress to issue fines to BP for violating the Clean Water Act and for affected states to receive money from those fines.