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'Spillionaires,' A Dirty Word From The Past, Is Back

"The oil spill that was once expected to bring economic ruin to the Gulf Coast appears to have delivered something entirely different: a gusher of money," ProPublica and The Washington Post report.

And as some people and companies in the region have tapped into the $16 billion spent — so far — by BP on cleanup and damage claims, a term that was coined back in 1989 after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska has been resurrected:


As in, those who have profited from all the money that's being spent even while, ProPublica finds, "others hurt by the spill [have] ended up getting comparatively little."

NPR's Debbie Elliott has done quite a bit of reporting on those who haven't fared very well, including twin sisters Sheila Newman and Sheryl Lindsay in Orange Beach, Ala. As Debbie reported in February, "they have seen their once-thriving beach-wedding business nearly go under since oil washed ashore. ... Brides canceled; few are booking this year. They've lost two-thirds of their business." But BP only paid for a fraction of the losses they claimed.

The disaster began nearly one year ago — on April 20, 2010 — when an oil rig leased by BP exploded, killing 11 workers. The damage led to a spill that took months to contain.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.