FLORIDA

Florida to sue BP over oil spill, seek lost revenue

 

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Attorney General Pam Bondi said she will file a lawsuit Saturday against BP and Halliburton that seeks economic damages as a result of the oil rig explosion that sullied the Gulf of Mexico and killed 11 workers three years ago.

The state’s announcement came the same day the state of Mississippi and the city of Tampa announced separate legal actions against BP and its partners.

“The state of Florida suffered considerable economic losses as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and BP and Halliburton must be held accountable,” Bondi said in a news release.

The state did not say how much money in damages it is seeking and would not release a draft or copy of its lawsuit, citing public record exemptions, said Bondi spokeswoman Jennifer Meale.

Bondi will file the suit under the Oil Pollution Act, just barely within the law’s three-year statute of limitation, in U.S. District Court in Panama City.

State officials say the lawsuit will argue that Florida is owed lost revenues from various sources as a result of the oil spill, including sales taxes, corporate taxes, documentary stamp taxes and taxes on alcoholic beverages and cigarettes. Florida also wants punitive damages under maritime and Florida common law “due to the egregious nature of the misconduct that led to this environmental and economic disaster.”

This lawsuit does not address damages to the state’s environment, which continue to be studied, she said.

When the lawsuits are formally filed, Florida and Mississippi will join other Gulf states in legal action against the oil giant and its partners. Louisiana and Alabama are involved in a massive federal trial in New Orleans that will sort out the liability of Transocean, the operator of the oil rig, and its partners.

Tampa lawyer Steve Yerrid, who is representing Tampa in its lawsuit and once served as Gov. Charlie Crist’s special counsel on the spill, had criticized Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott for not previously joining the Transocean litigation. The city of Tampa filed suit Friday after BP rejected its claim of nearly $60 million in lost revenues.

In 2011, Bondi and Scott said they were not joining the Transocean lawsuit because they wanted to avoid costly litigation and challenge BP directly.

“The new lawsuit our state will file against BP gives us the ability to continue to fight to hold BP accountable for the economic losses both our state and communities sustained when beaches were closed and many of our businesses lost income as a result of the spill,” Scott said in a statement released Friday night.

While working for Crist, Yerrid helped draft a proposed settlement that would have established a fund for Florida to draw from as it discovered damages from the spill. It would have been similar to the $20 billion fund the company created to respond to business and personal claims, he said.

But when Scott took office, Yerrid said, talks with BP fizzled.

“Ultimately, I hope the state of Florida succeeds, but it is really unfortunate that so much time has been allowed to pass without any resolution,” he said.

BP spokesman Scott Dean said the company had no comment.

Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Contact Katie Sanders at ksanders@tampabay.com. Contact Tia Mitchell at tmitchell@tampabay.com.

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