Friday, May 14, 2010

Claims Friday - Oil Spill Update May 14, 2010

1. Oil Spill Forecast.

The latest public information from NOAA states:
Onshore winds (currently SE 10-15 kts) are forecast to persist at about 10 kts throughout the weekend. The Mississippi Delta, Breton Sound, the Chandeleur Islands and areas directly north
have a potential for shoreline contacts throughout the forecast period.

Locally, skies remain partly overcast but there is little chance of rain or oil for the weekend.

2. Another "Last Weekend."

It often seems as if PNJ columnist Mark O'Brien was born with a mind that anticipated Twitter by half a century; his brain thinks only in ideas needing 140 characters or less.

Nevertheless, Mark actually got something right today: The coming weekend offers "yet another chance for 'one last trip to the beach' before the oil spill turns toward Escambia and Santa Rosa counties." Of course, soon as he says that, tarballs are certain to start washing up on Pensacola Beach.

3. Oil Spill Claims.

For those stupid enough to try it without a lawyer, BP has opened two 'claims offices' in the local area. The Pensacola BP claims office" is at 3960 Navy Blvd., Suites 16 and 17, but no telephone number has been reported. It has another "community outreach office" at 435 E. Government St. which has a local telephone number: (850) 912-8640.

The Gulf Breeze office is "down-the-highway" at 5668 Gulf Breeze Parkway, Unit B-9 in Midway. If memory serves, that's either very near or at the same address of a large business building that was flashing an over-sized banner touting John ("Drill, Baby, Drill") McCain for President in 2008.

Local TV station WEAR was reporting last night that anyone seeking to file a claim will be told to first send in the appropriate claim forms. For further information To get the run-around or listen to corporate propaganda and other communications, claimants are told they can call BP at 1-800-440-0858.

4. Oil Leak Estimates.

We've previously mentioned that"size matters" when it comes to this oil spill. The longer the leak persists, the larger the spill area grows and the more likely some part of it will wash up on Pensacola Beach. Until yesterday, BP had shrewdly refused to release videos of the underwater spill even though it was known the wellhead was being filmed.

Pressure from the White House forced release of at least one, grainy video yesterday. With that, the media's group-think narrative that "only" 5,000 barrels of oil a day was spilling into the Gulf collapsed. Scientists from coast-to-coast now are using the video to gauge the size of the leak -- and the results are shocking.

A commentator on Nature magazine's blog, The Great Beyond, probably is right: calculating the volume of the spill is not rocket science. "You only need to know the diameter of the pipe, and to watch the video to see how fast the oil moves out of the pipe end."

Even so, entire textbooks have been written about how to do it. This morning, NPR aired an interview with the author of one of them. It's definitely worth a listen:

You can read a transcript of the radio report here.

Now, everybody's getting in on the act. The New York Times reports the spill may be as much as "ten times" the size BP has admitted. The pressure on BP to come clean is building. Expect to hear more in coming days.

5. Judge Shopping.

Plaintiffs' lawyers suing BP, Halliburton, and Transocean
have asked that the hundred-plus lawsuits already filed be heard "by one of the Multi-district federal judges in New Orleans." By contrast, BP, relying on a predicted Transocean suit, has asked that the cases be assigned only to Houston-based U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes.

We confess that we have never before seen a party to a lawsuit so blatantly judge-shop by asking for a change to a specifically-named judge. Maybe it's a Texas thing. Or, maybe it's a special privilege accorded by law to oil companies under some Congressional statute which we somehow overlooked.

In any event, it may be illuminating to know a little more about Judge Hughes, Transocean's preferred judge. He's an Alabama alum (1963) who graduated from the University of Texas Law School in 1966. He served for a year as President of "Southwest resources" and was appointed to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan in 1985.

For what it's worth, Hughes has earned a dismal rating at The Robing Room from lawyers who have appeared before him. On a scale of 1 ("awful") to 10 ("excellent") Hughes draws an average of 4.7. That's the third-worst of all 19 federal judges in the Southern District of Texas who have been evaluated by lawyers.

Over the years, our personal observation is that lawyers are surprisingly kinder to judges whom they take the time to evaluate than you might suppose if you've ever heard them in casual conversation. To be sure, even formal evaluations are highly subjective. And, no doubt some lawyers who have lost a case or two in a judge's courtroom are not above taking their anger out on the judge with a harsh review -- or even gaming the system by convincing their barrister buddies to help out.

But when it comes to Judge Hughes, judging from the comments section at The Robing Room, certain themes recur with surprising frequently. Among them:

  • "worst judge in Texas"
  • "pompous and arrogant"
  • "a disgrace"
  • "biased"
  • "ignores rules of discovery"
  • "incredibly unfair"
  • "hates plaintiffs"
Time and again, the complaint is made that Judge Hughes picks his "favorite" side of a case "early" and if it isn't yours, then "god help you."

Could this explain BP's unusually brash motion to have Judge Hughes hear all the cases filed against it? Ya' think they know him too well?

minor edit 5-14 pm
clarify BP-Transocean-Halliburton suits 5-14 pm


muebles madrid en stok said...

Thanks so much for this post, quite effective info.

Randy orton said...

Info is out of this world, I would love to read more.