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Monday
Apr182011

'Spillionaires' Profiting off BP Oil Spill

U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images(ST. BERNARD PARISH, La.) -- The massive BP oil spill that devastated the Gulf Coast has turned out to be an economic boon for local governments and businesses, and even spawned a new word describing those who are profiting off the disaster -- "spillionaires."

Basic goods -- from bottles of water to port-o-johns, boats and lumber -- are all being sold to BP at inflated prices, often 20 times the going rate.

"It's been very good for our business, I'll tell you that," said businessman Ronnie Hyer, whose company sells safety equipment to cleanup crews.

A team of government-contracted biologists are currently renting a modest four-bedroom home at a rate of $30,000 per month, and the petroleum company seems to have no problem footing the bill.

Mike Utsler, chief operating officer for BP's Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, told ABC News the company wasn't focused on price -- it just wants to deliver results in a timely manner.

"Our focus was getting people, getting equipment and meeting the challenges of this historic response," Utsler said.  "No matter what it took at that point in time."

When BP and the government set up an army of 48,000 cleanup workers, businessmen like Hyer sold the company anything from Tyvek suits to kitty litter scoopers, causing his business to increase 1,000 percent.

But Wayne Landry, a councilman in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana thinks that the nearly $18 billion BP spent could have been put to better use.  In fact, he said his parish -- and others -- have "raped" BP.

"[We] wanted a better impact on the money, instead of gouging them on certain costs," he said.

Despite the criticism, local governments are raking in tax revenue, thanks to the cleanup efforts.

St. Bernard Parish saw a 96 percent spike in sales tax receipts.  Nearby Plaquemines Parish experienced a 70 percent increase.

But while there are plenty of "spillionaires" profiting from the cleanup efforts, tens of thousands of claimants are still waiting for their piece of the $20 billion settlement fund. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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