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BP Told to Stop Distributing Oil Spill Settlement Agreements

Fire crews battle the ranging blaze on the Deepwater Horizon on April 21, 2010, the day after the semi-submersible offshore oil rig exploded.
United States Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard

BP is financially responsible for the devastatingly massive oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico, but some are concerned the oil company isn't giving residents along the affected coastline or emergency relief crews a fair shake.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King said Sunday night that he has told BP they should stop circulating settlement agreements among coastal Alabamians, the Mobile Press-Register reports. King reportedly said the agreements stipulate that residents will give up their right to sue the company in exchange for a payment of up to $5,000.

"People need to proceed with caution and understand the ramifications before signing something like that," said King, who noted that he is prohibited from giving legal advice to private citizens. "They should seek appropriate counsel to make sure their rights are protected."

The Press-Register reports that BP spokesman Darren Beaudo responded, "To the best of my knowledge BP did not ask residents of Alabama to waive their legal rights in the way that has been described."

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar are holding a conference call with BP executives later today to discuss the claims process for people impacted by the oil spill, CBS News White House Correspondent Peter Maer reports.

Meanwhile, BP has agreed to alter waivers signed by fishermen responding to the disaster, after a fisherman complained to a U.S. District judge. Commercial fisherman George Barasich on Sunday asked a federal court to stop BP from forcing the volunteer corps of oil-spill responders to sign a waiver that compromised their right to sue the company in the case of an accident and required confidentiality about the clean up.

According to the Globe and Mail, the waiver read, "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..."

After a judge said the waiver was too broad, BP said it would strip out the offending provisions and would not enforce the waivers already signed.

BP CEO Tony Hayward told CBS' "The Early Show" Monday that "This is not our accident, but it's our responsibility." On the company's website, BP says it will pay compensation for "legitimate and objectively verifiable" claims for property damage, personal injury and commercial losses.

President Obama this weekend said the oil spill is a "massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster."

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