Florida to Join Multi-State Lawsuit Over BP Gulf Spill
Florida expects to be added to a multi-state federal lawsuit against BP over "widespread" damages from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, after spending nearly three years unsuccessfully trying to resolve the matter on its own.
On Wednesday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Panama City about the environmental impacts from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil-spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kendra Parson said the state anticipates the suit will be added to an ongoing federal lawsuit against BP in the Eastern District of Louisiana by Alabama, Louisiana and other plaintiffs.
In April 2011, the state rejected a chance to join the federal lawsuit, with Gov. Rick Scott saying at the time he wanted to ensure Florida was "treated fairly" in terms of receiving reimbursement from BP.
Officials with the Attorney General's Office said at the time that a settlement could be reached without litigation as early as the summer of 2011 unless the oil company refused to cooperate.
Parson said attempts to reach a settlement have been unsuccessful and that discussions related to the case remain confidential.
Scott, when asked Thursday about plans to join the federal lawsuit, said it's the "right time to hold BP accountable for doing harm to our state."
Attorney General Pam Bondi said state attorneys continue to work with BP "to do the best we can."
She added that the change in the state's legal approach is "a necessary step to begin to restore Florida's vital resources and the tremendous damage Florida suffered because of this oil spill. We are a tourism state."
The 17-page complaint doesn't estimate the extent of damages to Florida.
"While the full extent of the Deepwater Horizon spill and the environmental damages may not be known for years, the impacts to date have been widespread and severe, damaging the organisms, habitats and ecosystems in Florida waters and to Florida’s coastline," the suit states. "The damages include, but are not limited to, damages to Florida’s sandy beaches, salt marshes, wetlands, estuaries, submerged aquatic vegetation, deepwater communities and coral reefs as well as injuries to numerous wildlife species and aquatic species including fish, sea turtles, oysters, birds, and manatees."
Geoff Morrell, BP senior vice president for U.S. communications and external affairs, said in an email that BP is reviewing Florida's lawsuit and highlighted the actions the company has taken since the Deepwater Horizon accident.
"To date, BP has spent more than $26 billion to help restore the Gulf, including more than $14 billion on response and clean-up and more than $12 billion on claims paid to individuals, businesses and government entities," Morrell said. "To accelerate environmental restoration, BP voluntarily agreed to spend up to $1 billion on early restoration projects and has reached agreement or agreements in principle with the trustees on approximately $698 million in projects."
Florida's suit also names Anadarko Petroleum Company, Anadarko E&P Company, Transocean Ltd., Transocean Holdings, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling, Transocean Deepwater Inc., and Triton Asset Leasing.
The suit is separate from one filed last April by Florida against BP and contractor Halliburton seeking to recoup at least $5.48 billion in lost state revenue because of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and oil spill.