Why Folks Can’t Just “Move On Already…”

A few days ago, the Times-Picayune reported that 12,300 Louisiana fishing industry claimants have been paid a total of $357,000,000 for losses due to the BP Oil Drilling Disaster, averaging just over $29,000 per claimant. 

Gulf Coast Claims Facility Administrator Kenneth Feinberg is quoted saying, “I just think people should move on already.  I mean, this is not a lifelong operation."

It’s unclear if Feinberg himself gave the $29,000 average or if it was misread from the GCCF’s easily misread Louisiana Status Report (Sept. 9, 2011).  He could not be reached for comment. 

Either way, what the figures above actually reflect are rounded business totals for claimants in all industries.  According to the report, those particular numbers do not reflect claim amounts received by individual fishermen.

The report lists 4,767 claims paid for a total of $61,525,530 to individuals who filed fishing claims.  That’s an average of just over $12,900 per individual fishing claim -  and less than half  the figure above.

But the mean average, calculated in this case by dividing the total amount paid by the total number approved, is tricky. An average is easily over or under inflated if the data set includes extreme values.  This data set not only includes extreme values, but those specific extreme values (or even the specific range of values) have not been made available by the GCCF.

What we do know is that claims paid for over $100,000 are extreme values.  Again, according to the GCCF’s data, we know 0.04% of all individual claims paid can be expected to be in the $100,000 - $500,000 range. Similarly, 0.01% can be expected to be over $500,000.  Once those extremes are removed, the average individual claim paid to fishermen in Louisiana drops to $12,268.

Which is not enough to get by for more than a few months, not enough to compensate for their losses, and not enough to make anyone "whole".

This is not to mention the mess BP has left behind, the mess they've tried so hard to hide, the mess that's come back worse than ever since Tropical Storm Lee. 

That, Mr. Feinberg, is why folks can’t just, “move on already”.





Karen Savage teaches middle school math in the Boston Public Schools.  She began volunteering in Mississippi's Turkey Creek community nearly ten years ago, and now volunteers for the Bridge the Gulf, the Gulf Coast Fund, Gulf Change, Turkey Creek Community Initiatives and the Gulf Restoration Network