Florida expects to be added to a multi-state federal lawsuit against BP over damages from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, after spending nearly three years unsuccessfully trying to resolve the matter on its own.
The litigation was filed Wednesday in Panama City, by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The idea is to join the existing federal lawsuit now on trial in New Orleans.
After Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, Governor Rick Scott was asked about the timing of entering the case.
“It’s the right time to hold BP accountable for environmental harm to our state,” said Scott. “So that’s why we joined in the lawsuit.”
Florida's lawsuit names the firms Anadarko, Transocean and Triton Asset Leasing as defendants. It’s separate from one filed by the state last April against BP and contractor Halliburton. That action seeks about $5.5 billion in lost revenues related to the oil spill.
In April 2011, the state rejected a chance to join the original federal lawsuit. At the time, Scott said he wanted to make sure Florida was "treated fairly" in reimbursement from BP.
Officials with the Attorney General's Office also said at that time a settlement could be reached without litigation, as early as the summer of 2011, unless the oil company refused to cooperate. Scott said if no agreement were reached, a claim would be filed through the Oil Pollution Act rather than joining the case.
Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson chairs the Gulf Consortium, representing 23 Florida gulf coast counties earmarked for millions of dollars resulting from the oil spill.
“I certainly support the Governor and excited he’s moved forward,” said Robinson. “Escambia County itself had already entered that suit years before, and had entered its position in dealing with that to make sure the court does hold BP to what they’re responsible for.”
Attempts to reach a settlement in the New Orleans trial have been unsuccessful, and discussions related to the case remain confidential. BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said the company is reviewing Florida's lawsuit and continues to evaluate potential environmental damages caused by the spill.
For more information on the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process (NRDA) and what Florida is doing to implement early restoration projects from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, visit www.deepwaterhorizonflorida.com.