The State of Florida filed a lawsuit against BP and some of its affiliated companies last week on the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 workers and turned much of the northern Gulf of Mexico into a sea of sticky black crude. The state is seeking to recover $5.48 billion in actual and potential revenues it estimates it lost as a result of the giant 2010 oil spill.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the northern District of Florida, Panama City. It names as defendants BP Exploration & Production Inc., BP America Production Co., and Halliburton Energy Services. Additionally, the state is considering filing suit against Transocean Ltd., the Swiss company that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig and leased it to BP for exploratory drilling in the Gulf.
According to News Service of Florida, the state seeks to recover lost sales and use taxes; corporate taxes; documentary stamp taxes; cigarette surcharges; cigarette excise taxes; beer, wine, and liquor taxes; fuel taxes; rental car surcharges; and utility taxes.
Florida’s tourism industry took a huge blow when the spill erupted off the coast of Louisiana in April 2010. The growing slick appeared off the coast and on the beaches of Northwest Florida just as the hotels, restaurants, charter boat companies, and other businesses were gearing up for peak tourism season.
Although most of Florida was spared from dealing directly with the oil spill, the entire state took a hit as the growing slick scared millions of visitors into changing their plans to visit for fear of where the oil might travel, and because of doubts about food and water safety and other concerns.
“We all know there is a large amount of oil still on the floor of the Gulf and they are going to be held accountable because we do not know what could be happening in the future,” Bondi said.
Ms. Bondi said the state made BP a settlement offer of $5.48 billion about three months ago, but the company has ignored the proposal.
Under an amendment to an economic development bill, 75 percent of funds recovered by the state through litigation would be doled out over a 30-year period to restoration projects and other programs in Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Wakulla Counties where the spill did the most damage.
BP is currently defending itself in a federal trial in New Orleans against allegations it acted with negligence in causing the biggest oil spill in U.S. history. That trial is designed to apportion blame for the spill between BP and some of its partner companies, which will determine how much in fines and damages each will pay for its role in the spill.