Oil in the Gulf
Monday, May 10, 2010 – Gov. Charlie Crist and Attorney General Bill McCollum today called on former Attorneys General Bob Butterworth and Jim Smith to chair a Legal Advisory Council to explore options relating to the Deepwater Horizon incident and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The legal advisory team will bring together private-sector attorneys and others with expertise to begin assessing the impact the potential disaster could have on Florida.
“Many of Florida’s communities, businesses and even entire industries could be affected by this disaster,” Crist said. “We are wise and prudent to gather the best legal minds in our state together to begin preparing today for any future legal action we might need to take.”
The Legal Advisory Council will work with state agencies to prepare for any future litigation, enforcement, or regulatory action that may be needed. The group will focus on gathering information and strategies relating to the following:
• Protection of the rights of Florida consumers and businesses.
• Actions that the State of Florida can initiate now.
• Data and information collection and preservation.
• Prompt compliance to information requests by BP, Transocean, Halliburton and other companies.
• Strategies and theories for future legal action.
“It is never too early to tap into the best legal resources available,” said McCollum. “By taking this step now, we will be in the best position possible when moving forward with any litigation or other resolution on behalf of Florida and its citizens.”
BUSINESSES ALREADY HURT REGARDLESS OF OIL LOCALE By MICHAEL PELTIER THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Friday, May 7 – Florida remains the white-sand wonder that has attracted tourists for decades, but even the threat of oil soaked beaches or the waters that sculpt them is costing Florida businesses millions, representatives of Florida hospitality industry said Thursday.
Faced with a bump in cancellations brought on by fears that a BP oil spill will make landfall along Florida’s Panhandle, motel owners, charter fishing captains and restaurateurs called on tourists to keep their vacation plans intact while calling on government officials to keep the pressure on the company to make due on earlier promises to pay “all legitimate claims.”
What’s unclear is what “all legitimate claims” means.
“It’s easy for a hotel to say this is how many rooms canceled, but how does a cleaning company estimate how many clients they didn’t get because of this,” said Meg Peltier, President of the Gulf Breeze Chamber of Commerce.
Of more immediate concern, however, is what to do about economic bleeding that has already occurred. Imprecise media reports and popular misconceptions are making matters worse for the state’s top industry that will suffer regardless of whether oil meets the shore.
Kevin Begos, a seafood industry spokesman in Apalachicola, said the spill has definitely affected the marketplace, even though there's no oil anywhere nearby yet. He said seafood dealers in his area have seen orders drop considerably.
“Right now, it's mostly fear, because oil hasn't come here yet,” Begos said. But that doesn't mean it isn't being felt in the wallets of fishermen, oystermen and shrimpers who work the Apalachicola Bay.
“The question becomes would BP pay for if it impacts your business even if oil doesn't come here,” said Begos, who is the director of the Franklin County Oyster & Seafood Task Force.
Other marine-based businesses are seeing the same thing. Capt. John Rivers, owner of Mega Bites Inshore Charter in Gulf Breeze, said earlier this week that all of his bookings for June have already canceled despite the fact that he doesn’t take his charters within 100 miles of the affected area. In the charter business, word travels fast and in this case that’s not helping matters.
“This could easily cost me all the rest of my of 2010 business,” Rivers said. “If the oil damages the nurseries, 2011 won’t be any better. I’m already looking for work.”
Meeting in Pensacola Beach Thursday, hospitality industry officials said they’re doing all they can to bring skeptical travelers back while assuring others to keep their Florida plans.
Some timeshare and beach rental companies are waiving the customary 14-day deadline vacationers need to cancel reservations without losing their deposits. Some are also now posting daily photos to show potential clients how the beaches look each day. The strategies appear to have reduced the rate of cancellations.
“Being honest with our customers is working,” said Park Brady, CEO, ResortQuest, a booking agency with thousands of listing in the Panhandle.
Lawmakers say the spill is having an impact on areas not immediately affected by the oil spill.
Foreign tourists, especially, are skittish because of the time and expense of international travel.
Also, to tourists not familiar with Florida geography, what happens in the Panhandle may be indiscernible from what happens in Orlando, though the two destination are more than 400 miles apart.
“For foreign tourists, when they hear something is happening in Florida, it’s happening in Florida,“ said Rep. Rich Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg. “It’s not happening just in the Panhandle or just in southwest Florida.”
Anticipating further job losses, Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday requested $50 million in federal funds to pay unemployment claims brought on by the oil spill. Though BP is ultimately responsible, Crist urged President Barack Obama to approve the measure so the state can help assist affected workers while it waits for the company to reimburse.
“Such engagement is urgently needed to ensure a comprehensive state and federal response,” Crist wrote in his request for federal aid.
FLORIDIANS MAY BE LOSING THEIR TASTE FOR DRILLING
Friday, May 7 – A majority of Florida voters now oppose offshore drilling — even while a majority of national voters still support it — according to a new poll.
A telephone survey of 500 likely voters conducted May 3 by Rasmussen Reports showed support for drilling in Florida has dropped to 48 percent, while national support was a much higher 68 percent. Support for the proposal was higher among Florida Republicans, 60 percent, than independents and Democrats, who each supported the proposal 47 percent.
In the summer of 2008, when gas prices in Florida spiked to higher than $4 a gallon, Rasmussen showed 59 percent of Florida voters supported drilling off the coastline. Proposed legislation that would allow oil rigs within three miles of shore seemed to be gathering some momentum, though a hesitant state Senate blocked any action on the plan this spring. Now, in the wake of the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig, there is talk of a constitutional amendment banning drilling and Gov. Charlie Crist is considering calling lawmakers back into special session to address the issue.
CRIST CONSIDERS SPECIAL SESSION; OTHERS CHIME INBy MICHAEL PELTIERTHE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, MAY 6, 2010.… Faced with the potential loss of millions of dollars and Florida’s “sand-between your toes “reputation, Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday he’d consider calling lawmakers back to put an offshore drilling ban into the Florida Constitution.
Several Democratic lawmakers and Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink called for the ban, saying the timing may be right to pass what even a few weeks ago was unthinkable, a ban on offshore drilling etched in constitutional stone.
During a visit to Palm Beach County, Crist told the Palm Beach Post he would not rule out a special session to consider the proposal on oil and gas exploration in response to damage both actual, anticipated and perceived caused by an explosion and subsequent spill at a BP Oil exploratory well more than 100 miles from the nearest Florida beach.
“This much is clear. Let me be very clear about this, as far as oil drilling is concerned: Not now, no way,” Crist told the Post. “Whether it’s in the form of a constitutional amendment or a special session remains to be seen.”
Whether there are enough votes in the Republican-controlled Legislature to put the question before Florida voters is a major question – and appears unlikely. The News Service was unable to find any GOP legislators who would say Thursday that they would vote for such a proposal. The backers would need 72 votes in the House and 24 in the Senate to put the issue on the ballot.
And the House deputy majority leader, Rep. Seth McKeel, said Democrats were seeking to capitalize politically on the spill with the call for a constitutional ban.
“Right now it’s important that we focus on the disaster at hand and not be distracted by those looking to score political points off what may be an environmental and economic blow to our state,” McKeel, R-Lakeland, said in a statement put out by the Republican majority office. “There will be plenty of time to address this issue when all the facts are in hand, but right now our focus must and should be on assisting the Floridians whose lives are going to be affected by this crisis.” Meanwhile, Florida tourism representatives and Attorney General Bill McCollum on Thursday urged businesses to keep track of lost income as Florida weighs the possibility of joining other states in legal action against BP, the world’s fifth largest corporation with revenues of $241 billion for its last fiscal year.
In a letter to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, McCollum and AGs from the other other Gulf states said government officials need to coordinate efforts to launch legal action if the company doesn’t completely refill public and private coffers for the disaster that has already cost Florida’s tourism dependent economy million in cancellations and trips planned elsewhere.
“We recognize that BP has stated publicly that it will live up to its obligation to pay all claims arising from this environmental and economic disaster,” said McCollum, the leading Republican candidate for governor. “We hope that BP will. But we would be remiss in our responsibilities if we did not consider the possibility that enforcement or litigation efforts may be required in the future.”
Meeting with restaurant owners, hotel, motel and resort businesses in Pensacola Beach, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association president Carol Dover had two messages: First, consumers need to continue to come to Florida, where beaches, fishing waters, shopping centers and other attractions are open, untarnished and ready for business. But business owners need to keep track of what they have already lost because of merely the threat of oil-soaked beaches and coastal waters.
Meanwhile, lawmakers need to address the issue once and for all, Democrats say. Given the recent chain of events, they may now be able to muster the votes to pass a proposed constitutional amendment.
“This is the appropriate time to make a long-term decision,” said Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota. “In the absence of real threat, it may be too easy to downplay the costs. Now that we see what the risks are, we could make what I consider a conservative call.”
But Rep. Dave Murzin, R-Pensacola, said Thursday he's not ready to drop his support of offshore drilling.
“Planes crash but you don't ban flying,” Murzin said. “No, I would not support a constitutional ban on drilling,”
Click to enlarge
Please see the attached letter from Governor Charlie Crist to President Barack Obama requesting a $50 million disaster National Emergency Grant from the United States Department of Labor as a part of Florida’s response plans to the Deepwater Horizon Incident.
If you have any questions or need additional information, please call Governor Crist’s press office at (850) 488-5394
Date: May 6, 2010
From: Sandi Copes, Attorney General’s Communications Director
To: Members of the media
Re: Attorneys General send letter to President, US Attorney General regarding oil spill
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and the Attorneys General of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas today sent a letter to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking their assistance in
establishing a state-federal working group to coordinate preparation for any damage assessment initiatives, enforcement or litigation regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“As the attorneys constitutionally empowered to protect the citizens and economies of our states and to represent the departments and agencies of our states, we must make every effort to ensure that our states and our citizens receive full restitution, damages, and costs from any and all parties responsible for this spill,” wrote the Attorneys General.
Unlike the federal statute that caps damage recoveries at $75 million, absent egregious conduct, Florida statutes provide no cap on recoveries related to natural resource damages. Additionally, the state statutes are not preempted by the federal statute. Under federal law, responsible parties also have unlimited liability for clean-up costs.
The Attorneys General also asked the President and Attorney General Holder to ensure the various federal agencies responsible for enforcement and litigation activities would work with the state agencies involved toward a common goal and avoid any unnecessary duplication of efforts. The coordination would maximize the states’ available resources while ensuring that the states and their citizens can be made whole.
A copy of the letter is available online at: http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/MRAY-857LBA/$file/LettertoPresident.pdf
If you have any questions or need additional information, please call the Attorney General’s Communications Office at 850.245.0150.
SINK, GELBER, KRISEMAN, FITZGERALD PROPOSE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT THAT PROTECTS FLORIDA’S COASTLINE
Proposed constitutional amendment empowers voters to ban oilrigs from lining Florida’s beaches
May 6, 2010 – Miami, FL — Joining together from coast to coast, CFO Alex Sink, State Senator Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach), and State Representatives Keith Fitzgerald (D-Sarasota) and Rick Kriseman (D-St. Petersburg) called on Governor Charlie Crist to reconvene the legislature for a special session to consider a constitutional amendment that would ban drilling off of Florida’s beaches. Hosting press conferences in Miami and St. Petersburg, the three lawmakers released proposed legislation they intend to file should the legislature be called into special session.
“I have seen the BP oil spill up close, spreading for miles. This evidence proves that near beach drilling in Florida is a disastrous idea — we must never let oil companies drill just three miles off our beaches,” said Florida CFO Alex Sink. “Last year, oil companies spent millions on lobbyists and a PR spin machine and quickly passed near beach drilling through the Florida House. The people of Florida must send Legislators a message that we will not allow Florida’s economy to be put at risk or forget the painful lessons of this historic spill. It is for these times of crisis that the Governor has the power to call the legislature back to Tallahassee, and I hope Governor Crist will do so immediately to take up this important amendment to ban near beach drilling. This special session should also tackle the urgent economic and environmental issues which may result from this disastrous oil spill, such as making absolutely sure that BP will pay for every last dime of this cleanup and income lost by our businesses.”
“The tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico and the growing impact to Florida’s coastline and economic engine underscores the need for some in the legislature to drop the issue of oil drilling entirely,” said State Sen. Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach). “Florida’s fragile coastline and its beautiful beaches are the backbone of our multi-billion-dollar tourism industry. Shortsighted fixes to meet today’s energy demands are a real threat to Florida’s most unique economic and environmental asset. We need a united front to fight the big oil interests who want to open the waters around our state to drilling.”
“Now is the right time to settle, once and for all, the question of whether or not to drill in our waters,” said State Representative Keith Fitzgerald (D-Sarasota). “The events of the past few days have strengthened my resolve that the answer is no. This is exactly the right time to propose a constitutional amendment that will end drilling off our shores and protect Florida’s beautiful coastlines for future generations.”
“Even with a horrific and historic environmental and economic disaster unfolding before our eyes, Republican Leadership in Tallahassee refuses to drop their plans to drill just a few miles off our coast,” said State Rep. Rick Kriseman (D-St. Petersburg). “We can no longer wait on them to put an end to this ridiculous oil drilling debate. We can no longer allow them to steer our state's energy agenda.”
The proposed constitutional amendment offered by lawmakers will:
Allow voters to decide if the Florida Constitution should be amended to include a prohibition on drilling for oil or natural gas off Florida’s coast.
Send a clear message to the oil industry of what Florida residents think about proposals to open more areas off our coast to oil drilling. The amendment takes the decision away from the oil executives and places it with the people of Florida.
Preserves our beaches and coast by reducing the chance that the pollution associated with drilling will destroy Florida’s pristine coastline.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
CFO Alex Sink, 850-413-2842
Sen. Dan Gelber, 305-535-5485
Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, 941-955-8077
Rep. Rick Kriseman, 727-552-1380
Senator Dave Aronberg (D-Greenacres), who chairs the Senate's committee overseeing the emergency operations of the state, urged in a letter sent to the governor today that Florida expand its focus to the other two firms involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. He is recommending that in addition to BP, Transocean Ltd. and Halliburton establish a $1 billion escrow account under control of the Cabinet or CFO for Florida’s prevention, preparation, and mitigation efforts.
The Senator’s letter appears below:
May 5, 2010
The Honorable Charlie Crist
State of Florida
Office of the Governor
Tallahassee, Fl 32399
Dear Governor Crist:
As the Chairman of the Senate's committee overseeing the emergency operations of the state, I have been closely monitoring the developing situation involving the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Despite the welcome news that British Petroleum succeeded today in capping one of the wells spewing crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, I remain deeply concerned about the movement of the spill towards Florida’s coastline.
Of equal concern is what appears to be an almost exclusive concentration on BP’s responsibility in this disaster, with little attention directed thus far at the two other companies who likely share a good portion of this burden.
As you may know, the Deepwater Horizon rig is owned and was operated by Transocean Ltd. at the time of the explosion. In addition, Halliburton was performing cement work on the well just 20-hours prior to the blast. This is especially alarming since Halliburton was also the cementer on the well that suffered a huge blowout last August off the coast of Australia. Tens of thousands of barrels of oil leaked from that well over 10 weeks before it was finally capped. Although the investigation continues, the suspicion is that either the cementing process or the cement itself may have been at fault.
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.
While we ready our shoreline as best we can, I urge you to call upon each of these companies to take greater financial responsibility and commit more dollars than the initial pledge by BP. Florida should be insisting that an interest-bearing escrow account by established, under the control of the Cabinet or CFO, with each responsible party in this disaster committing a share to total $1 billion. The funds would be drawn down to fund preparations and prevention, wildlife recovery, loss to the local fishing industries, and mitigation as the damage rolls in.
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.
I look forward to your reply.
CFO SINK OPENS HELPLINE FOR BUSINESSES IMPACTED BY OIL SPILL
TALLAHASSEE—Florida CFO Alex Sink today announced that her Department of Financial Services’ toll-free Consumer HelpLine, at 1-877-My-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236), is prepared to assist business owners impacted by the growing oil spill in the Gulf. Specialists are available from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and information is also available at www.MyFloridaCFO.com <http://www.myfloridacfo.com/> .
“I’ve activated my consumer helpline to assist Florida business owners with questions about how this spill will impact their businesses,” said CFO Sink. “Florida businesses can take steps now to help expedite delivering their claim to BP, as well as help themselves be ready to take advantage of federal and state aid that may become available for recovery.”
Insurance specialists on the Helpline can answers questions about the claim filing process as it becomes available, but claims for damage or lost income should be filed with British Petroleum (BP) at 1-800-440-0858.
The two primary damage concerns for businesses will be property damage and losses to earnings due to business interruption. Unfortunately, this is a peril not listed in most insurance policies, but affected consumers should sit down with their agent to review their particular policy. More information regarding disaster-related insurance topics is available on the Department’s Disaster Response page at www.MyFloridaCFO.com <http://www.myfloridacfo.com/> . Out of state callers can reach the Helpline at 850-413-3089.
OIL SPILL SPURRING LAWSUITS ACROSS PANHANDLE By KATHLEEN HAUGHNEY THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, May 4, 2010…..An explosion on a BP oil rig last month that has resulted in the biggest oil spill in recent history has spurred at least eight lawsuits in federal court from Panhandle residents whose livelihoods could be upended by the spill.
Commercial fishermen, real estate executives, beach front property owners and restaurateurs have all filed suit against BP, in addition to rig owner TransOcean and contractor Haliburton Energy Services.
“The oil spill and contamination have caused and will continue to cause loss of revenue for persons (and businesses) who are being prevented from using the Gulf of Mexico and Florida's coastal zone for diverse activities, including work and to earn a living,” wrote Tim Howard, an attorney for George Weems Ward, an East Point fisherman named as a plaintiff in a class action suit against BP.
BP is still trying to stop the flow of oil from the damaged well in the Gulf, and Florida officials are expecting oil to reach state shorelines by Thursday wreaking havoc for many Panhandle businesses that fear they could face a significant financial hit if the spill keeps tourists away from Florida beaches and local fisheries are forced to close.
BP has earmarked $25 million for Florida for the first wave of cleanup work. The money will be used to repay local governments for work already done. Escambia County, for example, has already spent $1.2 million.Gov. Charlie Crist has also said that the state could potentially sue BP if it does not adequately help Florida with problems associated with the spill.
The suits filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida over the past week seek a minimum of $5 million but ask that juries consider punitive damages on top of that of $5 million.
Lawyers for Water Street Seafood in Apalachicola, one of the plaintiffs in another class action suit, noted that the oil slick will have harmful effects to the state's marine environments, severely impacting “ commercial fishing, seafood processing, distribution and consumption, and tourism and tourism related activities.”
BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward has said publicly that the company is prepared to pay all legitimate claims associated with the oil spill.
"We will absolutely be paying for the cleanup operation. There is no doubt about that. It's our responsibility — we accept it fully” Hayward told National Public Radio Monday.
SOLE PREDICTS SUMMER OF OIL By JOHN KENNEDY THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, May 4, 2010… The state’s top environmental official said Tuesday that oil from the massive leak off Louisiana is likely to touch Florida’s Gulf shoreline as early as Thursday, a prelude to what could prove a summer-long battle with the spill.
Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole briefed lawmakers in an afternoon conference call about the status of cleanup efforts, even as the damaged well one mile below the surface continues to belch 210,000 gallons of oil daily.
Given the magnitude of the catastrophe and the trouble BP and federal officials are having stemming the spill, Sole said the “potential landfall” in Florida has turned into discussion of the “eventual landfall of product in this state.”
Sole told lawmakers a sheen of oil had now been spotted 30 miles off Pensacola.
“The bad news is that we may be dealing with this for the next two to three months,” Sole said.
Sole said it was likely that the impact of the spill would touch both Florida coasts – with Gulf currents bringing the oil residue onto the Atlantic Coast, where it may result in tar balls on many beaches.
BP plans to place containment structures over the leaking parts of the well. But even that effort, if successful, would stanch only about 85 percent of the leak, Sole said, leaving some 30,000 gallons still flowing into the Gulf.
Along with applying this “dome” over the leak, BP plans to drill a well nearby that effectively would shut off the well damaged in the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. That work is expected to take as much as three months.
Under questioning from lawmakers, Sole said that BP is steering $25 million to Florida to offset the cost of spill preparations. Attorney General Bill McCollum also has said that a federal $75 million cap on economic damages stemming from natural disasters does not prevent the state from recovering more costs.
Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, took part in Tuesday’s conference call. In a memo to lawmakers, Atwater, a candidate for the Cabinet post of chief financial officer, cited his opposition to legislative attempts to open Florida’s coastal waters to drilling – moves championed by House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island.
The two lawmakers have since joined a chorus of state officials demanding a full investigation of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. But Gov. Charlie Crist and the front-running candidate to succeed him, Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum, are dismissing the Legislature’s drilling plans.
“The impact that a catastrophe, such as the Deepwater Horizon spill, could have on Florida was at the forefront of my mind,” Atwater wrote. “Despite the many individuals who championed the fiscal benefits and decried possible negative impacts, I was resolute in the need for a comprehensive study.”
CRIST: BP LAWSUIT POSSIBLE, MUST AWAIT RESPONSE By MICHAEL PELTIERTHE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDAPENSACOLA , Fla. May 4, 2010… …Gov. Charlie Crist told reporters Tuesday that the state would consider suing BP if the oil company fails to live up to repeated promises to meet its responsibilities in the face of an oil spill that could hit Florida’s Gulf coast.
En route to a flyover of the spill and a meeting in Mobile with state and federal leaders coordinating response, Crist said a lawsuit was “certainly in the realm of possibility” if the company fails to contain the spill and fairly compensate businesses, citizens and governments for their losses.
Company officials say they are ready to stand by the state.
“As a former Floridian,, I know how the beaches are part of your lives, your community and your businesses,” BP spokesman Liz Castro told a group of more than 400 who crammed into a Pensacola Beach church to hear from government and company officials Monday. “BP is responsible for this and we will be here.”
Crist and others urged patience, but also voiced frustration over the pace of protective actions, which must be approved by a company-led oversight board headquartered in Mobile. The governor said local efforts to head off oil or to clean up should be aggressive, while seeking the company's approval. BP is overseeing the cleanup.
BP has earmarked $25 million for Florida for the first wave of cleanup work. The money will be used to repay local governments for work already done. Escambia County, for example, has already spent $1.2 million.
Meanwhile, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum refuted earlier reports that there is a $75 million cap on economic damages. Though such a cap may be in place on the federal level, the state does not have similar restrictions.
“There is no cap under Florida law,” McCollum said. ”We’re not there yet and we hope we don’t have those damages, but if we do, the citizens and businesses… should understand that they will have that opportunity.”
A recently enacted new law would preclude Florida from paying more than $50 million to lawyers who work on contingency fees should the attorney general's office determine such a case would be too big for in-house attorneys. McCollum pushed for the legislation, which was recently passed and signed by Crist, that seeks to limit how much contingency fee lawyers could earn in such a case.
To: All Senators
From: Jeff Atwater, President
Date: May 4, 2010
Subject: Deepwater Horizon Spill
Since the issue of offshore drilling was first raised last year, I have been committed to ensuring no decision to open state waters to drilling would be made without a thorough study of the implications. The impact that a catastrophe, such as the Deepwater Horizon spill, could have on Florida was at the forefront of my mind. Despite the many individuals who championed the fiscal benefits and decried possible negative impacts, I was resolute in the need for a comprehensive study.
Florida is home to too many precious and unique ecosystems, world-renowned beaches, and an economy that is significantly based on tourism, to take the implications that surround offshore drilling lightly.
Thus, the Senate is actively monitoring the Deepwater Horizon spill. As this catastrophe plays out in the gulf, I want you to be informed as to the most recent efforts and actions underway to contain the damage and preparations being considered for cleaning up any oil that may reach our shores.
Today, at 2 PM, DEP Secretary Mike Sole will be conducting a teleconference for members of the Legislature. I strongly encourage you to participate by calling 888-808-6959 and entering the following code: 2452140#.
Florida’s State Emergency Response Team (SERT), with support from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), is the lead State agency responding to the Deepwater Horizon spill and is providing interested parties with updates on the situation.
Currently, no heavy waves of crude oil are anticipated; however, preparations are being made to safeguard our state’s shoreline. Any oil, regardless of how minimal, negatively affects our beautiful beaches, thus it is imperative that every precaution is taken. DEP, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), county governments, water management districts and several federal agencies are conducting pre-impact assessments, including sampling of water, fish, shellfish, and habitats along the Florida coastline and into the Gulf of Mexico.
On the federal level, the lead response entities are the U.S. Coast Guard, the Minerals Management Service, and BP. SERT is participating in routine conference calls with the Unified Command in Mobile, Alabama. The Unified Command has four staging areas in place and is ready to protect the sensitive shorelines of those states along the gulf.
One of those staging areas is located in Pensacola. DEP currently has staff in Mobile where they are working with the U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, BP, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the impacted states.
We have been assured that all available resources are being used in an attempt to shut off the oil discharge currently releasing up to 5,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf each day.
We will be monitoring the situation closely, staying in touch with Florida’s SERT. A copy of their latest update is attached. DEP has established a website to provide the most up to date information regarding the spill response: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon/ <http://www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon/> .
Our Federal partners must be ready to commit the resources necessary to protect our great state. I encourage each of you to get involved, be ready to assist Florida's shores, or lend a hand to our neighbors in Louisiana and Alabama. For information on volunteer opportunities please visit, www.VolunteerFLorida.org <http://www.volunteerflorida.org/> .
There is much work to be done. Florida must remain vigilant and ready to respond swiftly to whatever the coming days may bring.
It is imperative that all marine life and our pristine beaches are protected, our local communities and small business owners receive assistance, and those responsible for this catastrophe held accountable.