Tampa, Florida has joined the list of municipalities considering taking legal action against BP over revenues it alleges to have lost amid the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, which plagued the Gulf Coast for months in 2010.
The Tampa Tribune reports that city officials may hire a law firm to determine whether the city has a legitimate claim for damages against BP. Although no oil or tar from the BP oil spill reached Tampa’s shores, millions of Florida-bound vacationers canceled their trips as a cloud of uncertainty about the spill’s size and direction hovered over the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 2010. Others, not knowing how or where Tampa fit into the picture, chose to avoid vacationing in Florida altogether.
A 10-percent drop in tourism to 23 Gulf Coast Florida counties amounts to hundreds of thousands of visitors and more than $2 billion in revenue. Some Gulf Coast municipalities that rely heavily on tourism reported declines upward of 25 percent, and even as high as 50 percent in some places, in the peak season of 2010.
In July, the city of St. Pete Beach, Florida took legal action against BP in an effort to recover lost tourism revenues. Although no oil from the spill washed ashore there, a lot of bad press and canceled reservations did.
Fortunately, businesses and individuals who believe they were harmed by BP’s oil spill can make claims for damages with the Deepwater Horizon Claims Center, which administers a giant fund to offset spill damages. Claimants don’t need to be on the Gulf Coast or even near it, but must show that their business is tied to Gulf Coast tourism and suffered financial losses as a result. Governments, however, are not allowed to claim damages from the fund and must negotiate directly with the company or sue for damages.
Earlier in August, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Tampa International Airport decided to hire attorneys to recover nearly $2 million in damages allegedly tied to the BP oil spill. The airport made a claim in 2011 for $1.7 million after it lost 2.6 percent (about 204,000) of its vacationing passengers between May 1 and August 31, 2010. BP never responded to Tampa International Airport’s claim, the Tampa Bay Times reported.