Coverage: Gulf Coast Oil Spill
There will be plenty of blame to spread around in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill threatening Florida’s shores.
State Sen. Dave Aronberg wants to make sure there’s plenty of money to go along with it.
Aronberg on Wednesday sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist, asking him to insist BP and other companies likely to have had a hand in the spill up the ante of the cleanup fund established by the state by a factor of 40.
So far, BP has committed $25 million for each of the states along the Gulf Coast to compensate them for any cleanup costs they may incur.
“If that was a gesture, a starting point, I understand. If it’s (total) compensation it’s woefully inadequate,” Aronberg said.
Aronberg, who represents part of Lee County and who is running for Florida attorney general, says BP, Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton, should all pay into an interest-bearing escrow account available to compensate for costs of any cleanup and recovery.
Aronberg set the figure for the escrow fund at $1 billion.
Transocean Ltd. owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, leasing it to BP and Halliburton had been doing work at the site, pouring cement at the ocean floor, just days before an explosion destroyed the rig and claimed the lives of 11 workers.
“With the representatives of these three firms actively engaged on the rig’s activities at the time of the Deepwater explosion, it seems obvious that all three should be stepping up to the plate of financial responsibility. While the $25 million BP has offered to our state is a start, it is by no means sufficient. We are looking at financial consequences of devastating proportions, to say nothing of the potential costs to our wildlife and environmental damages,” Aronberg wrote to Crist.
Florida’s costs are likely to soar past $25 million, Aronberg argues, pointing to the fact that Escambia County in the Florida’s western panhandle already has spent $1.2 million on its disaster response, including ordering 20,000 feet of additional oil-blocking booms as it prepares for the spill’s arrival.
As justification for the $1 billion figure, Aronberg points to the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 and its aftermath. Exxon’s total liability in cleanup costs and fines topped $3 billion. Some claims took two decades to settle through federal courts. Some Alaskans feel they were never fully compensated.
“Exxon stonewalled for years. I just want to send the message $25 million is not going to compensate for this spill. That $25 million will be burned through very quickly,” Aronberg said. “To wait for claims to proceed under federal or state law is unacceptable. The suffering our state faces is at the hands of humans. These same people must be called on to shoulder the burden up front, not after-the fact.”
In addition to asking the governor to seek a larger compensation fund, Aronberg, who is chairman of the Senate’s Emergency Operations Committee, said he is scouring the state’s newly passed budget for money that might be available to help individuals or communities affected by the spill.
Connect with Brent Batten at naplesnews.com/staff/brent_batten