ORANGE BEACH, Alabama (Reuters) - The fund BP set up to deal with compensation claims after last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill is working too slowly, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Thursday.
The fund is not sufficiently transparent and requires too much documentation from claimants, said Holder after a visit to Orange Beach and Dauphin Island, both of which sustained oil damage during the three-month spill that began last April.
BP set up the $20 billion compensation fund a year ago under administrator Kenneth Feinberg.
BP estimates the total cost of capping the well, cleaning up the damage from America’s largest-ever offshore oil spill and compensating those affected will be more than $41 billion, including fines.
“Feinburg is well-intentioned but the pace it’s being done, the claims are not keeping pace with the recovery of this beautiful place,” said Holder, who renewed an assurance that U.S. taxpayers would not pay out because of the spill.
“I do not want to be overly critical, but this was an extraordinary event with a great impact on the lives of the people,” he said, adding: “When I promised to come back a year ago, I hoped to see the claims process in better shape.”
The spill damaged the ecology and economy of states across the U.S. Gulf Coast but Louisiana was particularly hard hit. It also sparked a flood of litigation and the Department of Justice in December sued BP and its partners over the spill.
Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported in May that the fund is starting to wind down after paying out around $4 billion and had processed more than 80 percent of the claims submitted.
Holder did not give specifics on areas where the compensation fund was running behind.
Editing by Matthew Bigg and Cynthia Osterman