Who's really paying for the oil spill: A WAFF 48 investigation - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Who's really paying for the oil spill: A WAFF 48 investigation


This April marks the three year anniversary of an oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people died and millions of gallons of oil flowed freely into the gulf creating an environmental nightmare. BP has worked to clean up the oil spill over the last 36 months, but the millions of dollars they've spent to restore and resuscitate the gulf hasn't always been theirs, it's yours.

You've watched the commercials, seen the images and heard the slogans. But a recent Public Interest Research Group or PIRG report shows the petroleum company saved $10-billion by writing off costs from the oil spill. PIRG's report is clear; it "forces taxpayers to ultimately foot the bill for these deductions. Every dollar these companies avoid paying gets made up through cuts to public programs, higher national debt, or increases to other taxes."

WAFF 48 took a trip to the gulf coast to ask BP why. Spokesperson Craig savage was more than willing to talk about all the good the company has done.

"One of the things that we're also encouraged by with tourism is the shape of the beaches," said Savage.

But when our conversation switched gears to the PIRG report and the company saving billions while hurting the taxpayer, savage didn't have an answer.

"I've really been focused on the cleanup efforts along the Gulf Coast and not so much the litigation and settlement discussion," said Savage. "I really couldn't speak to that."

Savage did forward our request on to a different spokesperson and WAFF 48 spoke to him on the phone last Friday. We asked for answers about how they specifically justify writing off $10-billion that tax payers have become responsible for. He told me he would get back to us quickly. I called the spokesperson time and time again, left messages every time, and finally an email from Guy Potvin of the corporate PR firm The Brunswick Group writing on behalf of BP's General Manager for Press Relations, Scott Dean.

"Nick, Many apologies for the delay in getting back to you. BP has asked me to let you know they will not be commenting on the tax question you mentioned."

Angry? You're not alone. Dominick Ficarino owns and operates seven shrimp boats out of Bayou La Batre, Alabama. He's in a legal battle with BP over money they don't want to pay him for losses he's claimed from the oil spill.

"Do I feel I've had a fair shake? No, I don't," said Ficarino. "I don't feel like I've been treated fairly the entire time, from the beginning to the end, a lot of lies and promises."

And the promises that put a thorn in Ficarino's side the most are the ones from those BP PR campaigns.

"They should've saved that commercial money and spent it toward restoration on this coast," said Ficarino.

Ashley Broadus's husband is a deckhand on the Miss Ally, one of Ficarino's shrimp boats. When we spoke to her on the beach, she was watching her husband leave for a 30 to 40 day shrimping trip. When we alerted her to the PIRG report she didn't hold back.

"It makes me sick," said Broadus. "BP, everything about them makes me sick. Everything they did was crooked, slow; they waited until the last minute to offer any kind of work when they shut down our waters."

Three years later, those waters are reopened, but Ficarino and Broadus said they're not the same. They say the seafood is safe, but it's not selling like it used to and that's crippling the industry.

"A shame on our government for allowing it to happen," said Ficarino.

And that's why WAFF asked Alabama Senator Richard Shelby how BP could save $10-billion while gulf families still suffer.

"Taxpayers shouldn't have to pay," said Shelby. "BP should have to pay any fines and damages because the taxpayers didn't do this, BP did it."

But Senator Shelby said his hands are tied on how BP saved that money and he's not sure Congress can change what damage has already been done.

"I don't know if you can stop it because a lot of that is business deductions and this is a business going on and they will have to probably decide that through the tax courts," said Shelby. 

WAFF 48 News will continue to reach out to BP for a comment on the PIRG report. 

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