BP Told to Stop Buying Off Coastal Residents

| Mon May 3, 2010 4:09 PM EDT

BP is already taking plenty of heat for the disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. The company, meanwhile, doesn't seem to be doing itself any favors.

On Sunday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shut down all commercial and recreational fishing in the affected region of the Gulf for at least 10 days, impacting an industry that brings in $41 billion dollars every year and maintains 300,000 jobs. How'd BP respond? Anticipating lawsuits, the company got to work trying to buy off local fisherman—offering a one-time payout of $5,000 in return for an agreement indemnifying the company from future damages.

Via Yahoo News:

The company, which owns the destroyed gulf oil rig that is pumping millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, has reportedly been pushing commercial fishermen pitching in with relief efforts to sign settlement agreements capping any claims against the oil giant at $5,000, and reining in future legal action arising from the spill.

The Globe and Mail reported that agreements circulated at an event in Venice, La. incliuded this line: "I hearby agree on behalf of myself and my representatives, to hold harmless and indemnify, and to release, waive, and forever discharge BP Exploration and Production Inc., its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, regular employees and independent contractors …"

The Mobile Press-Register reports that the Alabama attorney general Troy King has told BP representatives to stop circulating the settlement agreements. King cautioned that "people need to proceed with caution and understand the ramifications before signing something like that." A BP represenative now says that the line about waiving rights has been removed from the agreement, and would not be enforced on agreements that have already been signed.