Spillionaires -- Profiting off the BP Oil Spill

Basic goods and services are being sold to BP at 20 times the regular price.

April 17, 2011, 7:58 PM

April 17, 2011— -- 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.

According to a recent report by The Associated Press, local officials used cleanup money to purchase new SUVs, Tasers and other equipment unnecessary for cleaning up an oil spill.

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 1000 percent.

But Wayne Landry, a councilman in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana said 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, where Landry is a councilman, 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.

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