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The Nation

April 11, 2011

AP IMPACT: BP buys Gulf Coast millions in gear

(Continued)

NEW ORLEANS —

"Whether the funds could be perceived as being wasted or not really reflects on the organization accepting the money rather than BP," Keeney said.

Louis Skrmetta, one of the tens of thousands of business owners and individuals still waiting to get a share of a $20 billion claims fund established by BP, finds the state and local governments' spending galling, even if it's almost all BP's money.

Skrmetta runs a three-boat fleet that has a contract with the National Park Service to ferry day trippers to Ship Island, a recreation area about 10 miles offshore from Gulfport, Miss. He can't understand why BP paid so much to governments while businesses were suffering.

"I didn't think there was much logic in it," Skrmetta said. "Now, looking back in retrospect, it was a way to win over politicians, a way to win over the media."

In February, BP asked Louisiana parishes that received up to $1 million in advance payments in May for a detailed summary of how that money has been spent. Parishes were warned they must exhaust the advance money before they can make any new claims.

Some parishes, however, have banked that money and already billed BP for expenses on top of it. Terrebonne Parish says it hasn't spent any of its $1 million advance, yet BP has paid it an additional $927,842, mostly for contractors and payroll costs.

Parish President Michel Claudet said he isn't concerned that BP will try to recover unspent advance money.

"The agreement from the beginning was that it was nonrefundable," he said.

___

The oil spill drove away tourists and sapped tax revenues, but it was a boon for private contractors and consultants. Governments have spent more than $19 million of BP's money to hire contractors, according to the AP's review.

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