BP Hopes to Benefit From Rise in Gulf Coast Tourism

The petroleum giant would like to pay less for recovery efforts now, please

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Citing strong tourism revenues, British Petroleum is attempting to adjust the formula used to determine payouts to local businesses. In a court filing last Friday, the petroleum giant cited "the strength of the gulf economy" as an indication that certain areas along the Gulf Coast have recovered from the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and that "there is no basis" that local claimants "will incur a future loss related to the spill." Despite mixed messages about the progress--some scientists claim the ocean floor is still coated with oil despite the "recovery mission accomplished" filing--BP seeks to reduce the amount of money paid to local business for future losses, reports The New York Times. Locals admit that tourism is good this summer, but "it's not that good."

One obvious argument against the proposed reduction is that BP has been underestimating the scale of damage all along. Consequentially, it's logical that they would overestimate progress made towards recovery. Environmental scientists have debunked claim after claim from BP's recovery team, but with $20 billion committed to recovery, it's not hard to imagine why BP continues its sunny estimations. Tourism is responding well to these initial signs of progress, but the full picture of the economy is more complicated, locals say.

The New York Times reports that BP, by the way, also created the tourism boom it is now pointing to as a sign of recovery:

After months of aggressive marketing, largely paid for with the tens of millions of dollars that BP sent to states for that very purpose, tourism officials are now boasting of record, or near-record, numbers: going in to the Fourth of July weekend, tourism officials here reported vacation rental occupancy rates that hovered near 100 percent, all above--and some far above--rates at comparable times in 2009.

These figures would seem to bear out BP’s assertion that the recovery has firmly set in, to the chagrin of some coastal residents.

Pensacola-area blogger Rick Outzen says these coastal residents should shoulder the blame for BP's latest move. “Our state and local leaders have been so quick to declare that the beaches, seafood and Gulf Coast are doing fine that we may have screwed up the chances of the remaining outstanding BP oil spill claims to be paid,” Outzen wrote. "All BP has to do is show the ads being run by every tourist development commission along the coast to prove its point. By over stating our recovery--before all the data is accumulated--in an effort to fill condos and hotel rooms, we’ve given BP all the evidence it needs to stop cutting checks."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.