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BP Claims May Be Taxed at Highest Rate; Not an Official “Disaster”

10:14 pm in BP oil disaster by Michael Whitney

Louisiana Fisherman

Shrimper in Grand Isle, LA (Michael Whitney/Firedoglake)

Just when you thought the people of Louisiana couldn’t possibly take another shot to the face, there’s another one coming. It turns out that people who received claim money from BP could see that money taxed at the highest possible rate because the BP oil disaster wasn’t officially declared a disaster.

CPA Ted Stacey said, “If you were paid for lost wages or income, that’s going to be ordinary income that is taxed at the highest rate you pay. It could be as high as 35 percent for federal or 5 percent state.” [...]

However, for those who have already spent their BP money, Stacey said, “This may be the time to seek professional help.”

And for those who are thinking of getting away with not declaring their BP claims, Stacey said he is strongly advising against it.

“If BP paid you money for missing wages, income, etc., they are likely going to send a notice to the IRS about it,” Stacey said.

For so many people in Louisiana, the oil disaster ??? killed their livelihoods, eliminating the only source of income on which so many people relied. Frequently, when I was in Louisiana in May at the height of the spill, I heard from people who never declared much, if any income. A good portion of the economy was in bartering or otherwise under the table. Now, after getting some relief from BP, the government could tax it at 35%.*

Any thoughts on how we can stop this from happening?

(Hat tip to cbl on twitter!)

*UPDATE: Not all claims will be taxed at 35%; that is just the highest marginal rate, and I doubt very many fisherman qualify at that level. Still, it appears that claim money will be deducted as regular income and not exempt.

Want the kicker though? BP could deduct the money it paid out in claims from its taxes.

BP Claims Tides Will Help Remove Oil from Marshes

8:05 pm in BP oil disaster, Energy by Michael Whitney

In a press conference on the beach of Grand Isle, Louisiana last week, a BP spokesman claimed that the company’s solution to removing oil from marshes will be to set up boom that will capture oil as the tides come in an out.

FDL Seminal diarist Ivan Oleander asked BP’s spokesman about how to remove oil from the marshes around Elmer’s Island, part of Grand Isle BP blocks press from viewing.

"What we’re doing with the marshes is deploying snare and absorbent boom currently. With the tide changes, it works pretty effectively at picking up oil as the tide comes in and out," said BP’s flack.

That sounds nice, except for the reality of how oil hits the marshes. Oil covers the grasses and plants, leaving the plants brown as the water recedes. Pelican nests and rookeries become covered in thick brown oil as the tide comes in. The oil soaks into the soil of the marsh lands and barrier islands, eroding the fragile ecological makeup of the wetlands. Even with a minor spill, oystermen reported oil-covered oysters ten years after the spill because of oil seeping into soil.

Yet BP’s plan to clean up the marshes and wetlands is to set up some boom and let the tide handle it. "It works pretty effectively," BP says.

BP clearly doesn’t begin to know, understand, or care about the realities of the problems created by its oil disaster.

Sign our petition to the Senate: make BP pay every penny for its destruction of the Gulf.


Video: Meet Kay Lasseigne and Her Oyster Memorial

6:51 am in BP oil disaster, Energy, Government by Michael Whitney

Last week I told you about my morning spent with Kay and Raleigh Lasseigne, a fisherman husband and his wife who live in Grand Isle, Louisiana. I introduced you to Raleigh this morning, and you saw their memorial to their oysters in photos on Friday; now let Kay show you herself.


Sign our petition to the Senate: make BP pay every penny for its destruction of the Gulf.


Video: In Baby Talk, Mary Landrieu Explains BP Accountability

10:16 am in BP oil disaster, Energy by Michael Whitney

This was a rather bizarre moment after yesterday’s event with President Obama and Louisiana politicians. On her way out of Grand Isle, Mary Landrieu stopped to talk with folks waiting by her helicopter. After taking a photo with a Grand Isle resident, Landrieu, completely unprovoked, breaks out in baby talk explaining BP accountability to a seemingly terrified child.

"I pwomise you, we’ll make that big ole BP pay a lot of money, OK? Billions of dollars, I pwomise you. We’re going to have a big cleanup job and it’s going to get cleaned up, all right?" said Landrieu.

Watch this weird moment:

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Louisiana Fishermen: “How Are We Going to Live?”

3:46 am in BP oil disaster, Energy by Michael Whitney

I spent a heartbreaking three hours with Louisiana fishermen Jim and Angel. They work and live on a mid-size shrimping boat docked on Grand Isle, Louisiana. They’ve been through Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav, and Ike. They’ve been through more hardships than many of us can imagine. Each time, they’ve got through because they had the one thing on which they could always count: the water and its bounty. And now it’s gone.

Watch Jim and Angel describe how the oil disaster affects them. This is just four minutes of much more footage, including some time on their boat to come tomorrow. Their story is heartbreaking, and truly representative of the pain many feel here in Grand Isle and across Louisiana and the Gulf.

Where do they go from here? No one knows.

Help us continue our coverage of the BP oil disaster. Please donate today to fund our reporting from the Gulf.


BP Pulls Back Fishermen from Cleanup after Man “Busted His Skull” on Dock

11:55 pm in BP oil disaster, Energy by Michael Whitney

BP ordered 125 fishermen using their boats for the cleanup effort to go home late Tuesday after four workers fell ill. From the "Unified Command:"

At approximately 3:30 p.m., crewmembers of three vessels reported experiencing nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest pains. One individual was medevaced by air to West Jefferson Hospital in Marrero, La., another was transported to the same facility via boat, and two were transported via ambulance. The other crewmembers refused treatment at the dock.  As a precautionary measure, the Unified Command directed all 125 of the commercial vessels that had been outfitted with equipment for oil recovery operations in the Breton Sound area, to return to their temporary accommodations in Breton Sound where medical personnel were being dispatched to evaluate the remaining crewmembers as an additional precaution.

“No other personnel are reporting symptoms, but we are taking this action as an extreme safeguard,” said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Robinson Cox, the assistant safety officer at Incident Command Post Houma.

I was in fishermen’s bar tonight in Grand Isle, LA, and spoke with a shrimper, a carpenter, and a outboard motor repairman. I’ll have more on that tomorrow, but while I was there with FDL diarist Ivan Oleander one of the bartenders took a phone call.

She reported after the call with a friend in Venice, Louisiana – the other main location of oil disaster buzz – witnessed a fisherman back from a BP cleanup trip who "busted his skull" as he fainted from his boat onto the dock. I assume that this is the man who was medevaced from the dock. Add in three more who required hospitalization and you have real evidence of just how poisonous the oil and chemical spays are for humans, in addition to animals.

While BP’s recall is in only one area in which it has a presence, word of the incident is already quickly spreading through fishing communities. All these people know is the water, and some hoped to make up for the fishing ban with money from BP. But now in the footsteps of the Exxon Valdez fishermen, a new generation of fishermen will endure what will be a lifelong battle with BP and the reality created by BP’s recklessness: no work and debilitating illnesses.

Sen. Barbara Boxer Explains Video of BP’s Straw into Main Oil Gusher

12:58 pm in BP oil disaster, Energy, Government, Legislature by Michael Whitney

During today’s Senate hearing on the BP Oil Spill with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Senator Barbara Boxer unveiled a new video of the underwater pipe gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

In this video, Boxer explains that the pipe to the left is gushing oil, with a robot on the right holding the "straw" into the large pipe. You can see the thin straw in the lower third of the video. The flame-like flare coming out of the left of the straw is actually chemical dispersant being sprayed at the source of the oil.

Watch the video:

New Videos: Underwater Oil Volcano Continues to Erupt [UPDATED]

11:52 am in BP oil disaster, Energy by Michael Whitney

The office of Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) today released previously unseen video of the oil volcano erupting from the failed blowout preventer (BOP) of the Deepwater Horizon. In 20 minutes of video posted to his YouTube channel, we get the best look yet at the disaster unfolding more than a mile underwater in the Gulf of Mexico.

This is the first footage of the underwater oil disaster in process since the White House and BP consented to the release of 30 seconds of video taken earlier this month. Once that video was released, scientists were quick to revise estimates of the disaster from 200,000 to 3 million gallons of oil released every day.

First is a long shot of the BOP, taken during the late night of Saturday May 15. The pipes you see extending to the right are part of the collapsed infrastructure of the Deepwater Horizon The point from which the oil is gushing is the top of the BOP. Watch it:

The second clip definitely seems more frightening, even though it’s the same shot as the above. This video is a closeup of the BOP and clearly shows the extent to which dark oil is erupting from the failed blowout preventer. Watch it:

(You can see the whole video from which the previous two clips were cut, as obtained by Senator Bill Nelson, here.)

As kgrandia posts at the Seminal, this video, taken yesterday, is the reality of the complete ineffectiveness of the straw supposedly sucking up 20% of the oil. Ha! This video shows the big pipe, and what is effectively a small straw inserted into the oil gusher. Watch it:

Two more clips. Here is a video similar to the one first released by BP and the White House that shows a black cloud of oil gushing from the pipe.

And finally, a shot of the oil volcano from May 10.

White House Allowed BP to Keep Video of Gushing Pipe from Public for Three Weeks

6:51 am in BP oil disaster, Energy by Michael Whitney

The White House allowed BP to hide its video feed of a gushing oil pipe in the Gulf of Mexico from the public for three weeks, all the while that same video played live in the White House Situation Room, ABC reports.

This startling revelation comes just as Obama prepares to get really angry in public about the spill – just in time to cover up his administration’s collusion with BP to hide the true extent of the massive disaster in the Gulf.

Brian Ross and John Soloman of the Center for Public Integrity discussed ABC’s quest to obtain the video of the oil pipe and revealed that the White House consented to the release of a 30 second clip of the pipe.

"At the end of the day, the White House finally acquiesced to the 30 second piece because they understood the political and media pressure," said CPI’s John Soloman. "Why not sooner? It’s been going on for three weeks. People have seen this internally within government almost every day. Why can’t the American people see it?"

The release of even the 30 second video clip showing the oil spewing uninhibited into the ocean immediately led outside observers to conclude the disaster was far worse than the 210,000 gallon estimate of the NOAA and Coast Guard. One scientist predicted to NPR that the rate is more in the range of almost 3 million gallons a day based on an analysis of the video released by BP.

The revelation that the White House and BP kept the true extent of the oil disaster from the public coincides nicely with last night’s news that Obama plans to get "angry" in front of the White House press corps tomorrow about BP’s role in the disaster and its clean up. Don’t be fooled, though. The evidence is mounting that the White House is working in concert with industry to hide the truth about the extent and cause of the spill.