Suzanne Burke is ecstatic that BP has successfully capped the well that before its cementing poured 5 million gallons of light crude into the Gulf of Mexico.
She’s also tickled that President Barack Obama will stop by in the Panhandle this week, the latest political luminary to tour the region that has captivated the world since April 20, D-Day for what would become the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
Mostly, however, Burke just wants to get paid.
Burke, a Panama City resident who owns rental property in the sundrenched stretch of sugar sand beach, said she’s been told that the company’s position is that there was no direct impact of oil on Florida’s beaches in May. Therefore, the oil company has decided that she’s not to be reimbursed for lost business during the month.
“I was told … my claims adjuster that the May check was on his desk but he was told not to mail it, that any money I got would be taken out of my June check,” Burke said.
“The adjuster said it was because there were no impacts in Florida in May. That’s just not true.”
A company spokesman quickly countered that BP has not automatically cut off payments for damage wrought by the spill in May. That said, the company is requesting that recipients of the first salvo of checks provide adequate proof of the losses they’ve incurred.
Burke said she is among more than a handful of Florida business owners who are finding out that BP does not consider the loss of business due to the threat of oil a loss the company should reimburse.
Likewise, Capt. William Gay, a charter boat captain from Panama City Beach, says the $1,000 check he’s received from the company for July will be his last. Gay said the month would conservatively have brought in $35,000 if the fisheries he normally takes his clients to were open or wary fishermen would not have cancelled trips thinking the whole Gulf was topped with oil.
Gay also had invested money and time into opening a beach rental business this summer. That, too, was scuttled by the spill. Gay said company representatives told him they were not responsible for a fledgling business that might have been.
“I was basically told by them, ‘We’re done,’” Gay said.
News reports in May prompted a flood of cancellations from wary visitors unsure whether their summer beach getaway would be tainted by oil. Though oil did not make significant landfall in Florida until June, hospitality industry officials said much of the damage had been done as vacationers stayed away from the Gulf en masse.
“We’ve been getting a lot of calls from people experiencing the same thing,” said Beth Oltman, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking to business representatives last week, Carol Browner, Obama’s top adviser on the spill, said the administration was in for the long haul and prepared to press the company to pay for damages that will continue to be assessed as the spill’s damage is more closely reviewed.
“I just want to tell you that we are not going anywhere,” Browner said. “We remain committed….It’s an important regional treasure but it’s also a national treasure.”
Contact Michael Peltier at email@example.com.