Gulf Coast attorneys general call on BP, Transocean and other Deepwater firms to guarantee long-term impact of oil spill

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Attorneys General from the five Gulf Coast states asked executives from BP, Transocean Holdings and the other companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to confirm, in writing, that they will cover long-term economic impacts the spill may have on coastal communities.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who’s currently running for Florida’s governor seat, said he’s pleased with BP’s attitude and cooperation in cleanup and recovery efforts so far but he’s not sure how long the company will remain proactive. He and the attorneys general from Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama formed the Gulf Coast Coalition to ensure BP and its partners cover the long-term effects on industries including tourism and fishing.

“The companies will certainly do cleanup and I believe the federal government has a role to play in that,” McCollum said. “We [the Gulf Coast Coalition] are looking at the liability, the cost and the damages to our tourism industry and the loss of revenue to the State of Florida. How are we going to be compensated for not only the cost of the cleanup but the cost of the damages done as a result of this disaster?”

McCollum said the attorneys general from the Gulf Coast Coalition plan to file lawsuits if BP doesn’t fulfill its open commitment to pay whatever damages result from the spill voluntarily.

“We are working together to notify BP and Transocean and others,” McCollum said. “But, ultimately, if we have to bring a lawsuit, the attorney general’s office will make sure there is a lawsuit. We would expect litigation to result against the companies and the businesses that have caused the damage.”

The attorneys general from the Gulf Coast Coalition met in Mobile, Ala., to discuss the oil spill’s long-term impacts and how they can band together to put pressure on the oil companies responsible in the case they back off their commitments.

“We hope that they [the oil companies] are [going to keep their promises], but there’s no way to tell yet,” McCollum said. “If the oil comes ashore, it won’t come just for one day. It goes out there for miles and miles.”

Though the oil plume hasn’t reached the Florida coastline yet, tourists have started canceling reservations and abandoning vacation plans.

Walton County Republican Women’s Federation President Charlotte Flynt said some resorts in the area are giving tourists with pre-booked trips full refunds, some are just refunding deposits and others aren’t refunding anything.

“This is the start of our major tourist season,” Flynt said. “People are canceling reservations because, in the rest of the country, it looks like we’re rolling up the beaches and closing down, but we’re not.”

Cathy Sherman, director of the Cordova Historical Museum in Cordova, Alaska, near the site of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, said people should be skeptical of oil companies and wary of their promises.

“The advice we’ve been giving to everyone down in the Gulf is to document everything,” Sherman said. “The words the corporations use are similar. You hear the same things as before.”

Sherman said the region’s economy still hasn’t recovered, nor has the environment.

“Economic impact and recovery is still going on and we’re 21 years in,” she said.

The Gulf Coast Coalition hopes the oil spill doesn’t have a long-lasting economic impact, but is planning for the worst.

“If it comes ashore, you not only have the fishermen who are losing out in this deal, but you have hotels, motels, businesses,” McCollum said. “There are already cancellations out in the Panhandle today for the summer season, which is their busiest season.”

BP said it has not received the Gulf Coast Coalition’s letters yet.