BP picks La. foundation to administer $100 million fund for oil workers hurt by moratorium

Friday, July 30, 2010

La. foundation will administer oil workers fund

JACKSON, Miss. — BP is giving a Louisiana charity $100 million to hand out to oil rig workers struggling because of the federal moratorium on new deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the company said Friday.

The Gulf Coast Restoration and Protection Foundation, an affiliate of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, doesn’t expect to start taking grant applications until September.

There’s no official estimate of how many people have been out of work since the Interior Department imposed the moratorium in June in response to the April 20 rig explosion that killed 11 people and set off the massive Gulf spill. Drilling has since been suspended on 33 exploratory wells.

The fund would cover people who worked on the rigs drilling those wells, but maybe not people who provided support services, such as ferrying supplies to them, said Mukul Verma, a foundation spokesman. Guidelines have not yet been finalized.

Brett Broussard, who worked on offshore supply vessels and now can’t find a job, said BP should handle the claims itself.

“They’re making it right by giving it to a (expletive) charity organization where I have to beg for a grant? I’m speechless,” Broussard said in a telephone interview Friday from his Breaux Bridge, La., home. “That makes absolutely no sense to me.”

Broussard may not get any of the money, anyway, because he didn’t work on a rig.

“Under a stipulation by the donor, grants will be for people who worked on the rigs only,” Verma said.

When asked if that meant everyone on a rig would get money, including laundry workers, caterers or others who don’t work directly in the drilling process, Verma said details are still being worked out.

“We are working to define rig workers as broadly as possible,” Verma said.

Verma said people like Broussard should apply for compensation though BP’s larger $20 billion claims fund, but Broussard said he was already turned down there because he is an oil field worker.

“So boat captains and deck hands be damned,” Broussard said. “They make public statements that they will be fully responsible, but where is the responsibility to people like me?”

Steve Rinehart, a BP spokesman, said in a statement earlier this week that BP is not legally liable to compensate for job losses caused by the moratorium, though it did set up the $100 million fund as a goodwill gesture.

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