Coverage: Gulf Coast Oil Spill
TALLAHASSEE — One tragic anniversary.
One important deadline, and plenty of criticism.
In less than a week – April 20 – the United States will recognize the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers, and spewed over 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
The anniversary also marks the deadline to join a lawsuit against Transocean, the owner of the rig. Several states and communities, including Collier County, have joined the suit, which is being handled by a New Orleans federal court.
One state that hasn’t joined – Florida.
During a press conference on Wednesday, standing next to photographs of an oil slick and an oil-covered pelican, Rep. Rick Kriseman lashed out at Scott. The St. Petersburg Democrat said the governor is leaving up to a billion dollars on the table; money the state could use to promote tourism, which was hurt by the spill, aid business owners statewide who took a hit, and fund beach nourishment projects.
“Why? What is he thinking?” Kriseman asked. “Who does this man represent? Is he representing Floridians and is he representing the state of Florida, or is he more concerned about a foreign corporation like British Petroleum, BP? It makes absolutely no sense.
“And I think it’s a question we all have to ask, and we have to ask it loud and we have to ask it now because we’re running out of time.”
On Monday, Scott announced that he is accepting a $30 million marketing grant to help mitigate the impacts to the tourism industry in Florida’s panhandle, the only portion of the state where oil actually washed ashore. In a prepared statement, Scott said he was pleased that BP was “doing the right thing.”
“However, this is just one small step on the road to recovery,” Scott said, “and I’m going to continue to hold BP accountable to the Floridians and businesses that lost millions of dollars because of the oil spill.”
Regarding the $30 million grant for the panhandle, Kriseman said, “Wonderful.” But he said Scott, a Naples businessman, seems to have forgotten about the rest of the state.
“I guess maybe the governor isn’t comfortable making a claim for a billion and suing a big corporation because he’s personally experience it himself and didn’t like the feeling of it. I don’t know, maybe that’s the reason,” Kriseman said. “This is a guy who wasn’t born in this state, who’s come to this state and doesn’t seem to realize what it means to be a Floridian, and certainly doesn’t seem to care about Floridians here in the state of Florida, because if he did we’d be going after that billion dollars.”
At a board meeting Tuesday, Collier commissioners agreed to file a claim against Transocean, seeking $450,000 in losses tied to the massive oil spill. The claim is primarily for lost tourist development taxes.
Collier County saw a dip in tourism for months after the spill, although oil never reached its beaches.
_Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills/