Across Florida
What's happening on other political blogs?

Archive for the ‘offshore drilling’ Category

Sink, Florida Cabinet fed up with BP claims czar Feinberg

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink used an update this morning on Florida’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster to blast BP claims czar Ken Feinberg for paying too little, too late to Panhandle businesses and causing at least one company to close its doors.

“I’m kind of of the mind set that enough is enough,” Sink, the Democrat candidate for governor, said at this morning’s Cabinet meeting. “I don’t know about you all but I’m sick and tired of this. These desperate people through no fault of their own having to shut their business down? That’s horrendous!”

Sink said the owners of Harmony Beach Vacations in Destin sent her an e-mail yesterday telling her they were going out of business because their claim for lost revenues has languished under both BP and Feinberg, who took over the oil giant’s maligned claims process for individuals and businesses on Aug. 23.

(more…)

Crist and Sink send bold letter to BP claims czar, ask for Cabinet appearance

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink want BP claims czar Ken Feinberg to appear before the Florida Cabinet and explain why his revamped claims process is in such a mess.

In a letter sent today, Sink, the Democratic nominee for governor, and Crist, the independent candidate in the three-way race for U.S. Senate, also asked Feinberg to immediately hire more people and spend more resources processing claims.

“Floridians continue to tell us that they cannot get their claims paid in a timely fashion,” Sink and Crist wrote. “Many Floridians who have been impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill need immediate relief just to make their next mortgage payment or make their next payroll.”

Feinberg met today with Attorney General Bill McCollum, who said afterward that he was “cautiously optimistic” that Feinberg would tweak his claims process to make it more Florida-friendly for folks trying to get tourism-related losses paid.

Claimants have complained that Feinberg, in charge of doling out much of the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility fund set up by BP, has reneged on his earlier promise to pay individuals 48 within hours and businesses within a week of receiving their claim.

At yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Sink read an e-mail Pensacola business owner Jeff Elbert, also head of the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce, who said that he doesn’t know of a single beach business that’s been paid since Feinberg took over BP’s botched claims process on Aug. 23.

McCollum ‘cautiously optimistic’ after meeting with BP claims czar

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Bill McCollum said he is “cautiously optimistic” after an hour-and-a-half long meeting with BP claims czar Ken Feinberg in the Capitol this morning.

Claimants throughout the Gulf Coast have complained that little has changed since Feinberg, appointed by the White House and BP to dole out $20 billion the oil giant is putting into the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, took over BP’s much-maligned claims process more than three weeks ago.

McCollum has repeatedly criticized Feinberg’s system, still in development even after he has written more than $40 million in checks to Floridians for losses caused by BP’s April 20th Deepwater Horizon oil rig blast and ensuing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Feinberg’s paid an average of $7,195 in emergency payments to nearly 5,600 Floridians since taking over on Aug. 23.

One of the most contentious issues facing Florida thus far has been Feinberg’s emphasis on “proximity” to the oil spill in determining eligibility for claims and questions about whether perceptions about Florida’s beaches being oily (even when they were not) contributed to a drop in tourism that affected hotels, restaurants and state tax collections.

(more…)

Oil panel boiling mad over BP claims czar’s broken promises

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 by Dara Kam

BP oil spill claims czar Ken Feinberg, hired by the oil giant and President Barack Obama to hand out $20 billion to individuals and businesses impacted by the massive oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, overpromised and underdelivered, state officials and others said today.

Feinberg took over BP’s maligned claims process on Aug. 23, pledging he would “bend over backwards” to help claimants get emergency six-month payments to help them cope with the financial woes many have encountered since the April 20 disaster.

Feinberg last appeared before Gov. Charlie Crist’s Oil Spill Economic Recovery Task Force last month and left even skeptical members of the panel, including Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon, with high hopes that the Boston lawyer would fix BP’s botched claims system.

But Feinberg’s new process, called the “Gulf Coast Claims Facility,” is leaving a lot to be desired, many of the panelists discovered Tuesday.

“I never thought I’d say this but part of me would like BP back,” said Sheldon, who was one of the oil company’s harshest critics before Feinberg took over. “What he articulated to all of us was something totally different than what’s in this protocol.”

The panel is demanding that Feinberg appear before them again and plans to confront him with a transcript of what he said he would do, like allow a priest to verify that information in a claim was accurate, and what they hear is taking place.
(more…)

UPDATE: It’s official: Oil spill special session off the table

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Senate President Jeff Atwater called to clarify his position on the decision not to hold a special session on oil spill-related issues. Here’s what he had to say:

“I haven’t changed my mind on anything. I don’t know how I could have tried any harder,” Atwater said about the House’s decision that a special session is unnecessary this year. He said a special session is both “timely and necessary.”

There’s no need for a special session to address the fall-out from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig blast that pumped millions of gallons of hydrocarbons into the Gulf of Mexico, House Speaker Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater have decided.

Despite earlier promises that lawmakers would convene as early as September to try to give a helping hand to fishermen and others in the Panhandle whose finances have crumbled in the aftermath of the April 20 disaster, the pair are convinced those issues can wait until the regular session next year in March.

“It would appear that while there are some issues where legislative action may be appropriate, there are no issues that require immediate formal legislative action. Additionally, there are several areas where it is clear that we do not yet possess the information necessary to make informed decisions. Moreover, many of these issues require solutions that would benefit from closer scrutiny during a regular legislative session,” Cretul, R-Ocala, wrote to House members today.

Atwater, who is running statewide for chief financial officer, apparently agreed although he had previously pushed the House to come back early.

Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said he asked his select committee “to continue developing proposals, gathering data, and working with incoming leadership in preparation for the next session” in a memo to the his members today.

Sink joins McCollum in demand for revamp of BP claims czar process

Monday, August 23rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink wants oil disaster claims czar Ken Feinberg to revamp his process for paying individuals and business owners who say BP’s massive oil disaster caused them to lose revenues or suffer other damages.

Sink, who traveled frequently to the Panhandle to meet with Feinberg and business owners who’s claims languished in BP’s hands, and fellow Cabinet member Attorney General Bill McCollum both accuse Feinberg of creating a process that’s less friendly to oil spill victims than federal law.

Feinberg has “taken an extremely restrictive view as to who is eligible for recovery,” Sink, a Democrat who is the presumptive nominee for governor, wrote to Feinberg today, the kick-off of his Gulf Coast Claims Facility that will handle the claims.

“In my opinion, the GCCF rules must be rewritten in favor of those who were harmed by this catastrophe, as opposed to those who caused it,” Sink wrote.

(more…)

Florida Realtors get $16 million for oil spill losses

Monday, August 23rd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Florida Realtors will divvy up $16 million to cover lost sales in the aftermath of the April 20th Deepwater Horizon rig blast and ensuing massive oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida’s sharing in about $60 million claims czar Ken Feinberg set aside for real estate agents and brokers although they would not be eligible for claims under state or federal law.

He’s already given property owners the bad news that they’ll likely get nada from the $20 billion fund set up by BP to cover losses caused by the spill.

Each of the Gulf Coast states’ real estate associations will dole out the funds to realtors.

Florida Realtors, the state association representing realtors, hired Indiana-based claims adjustment firm NCA to handle the claims and administer the funds, according to press release issued by the association.

Feinberg, who took over BP’s botched claims system at 12:01 a.m this morning, has said that realtors were the loudest group making a pitch for how the oil disaster made an already sluggish real estate market even worse.

Feinberg’s in charge of administering the $20 billion fund BP set up to pay for losses and injuries caused by the disaster. BP will put the money into the Gulf Coast Claims Facility account over four years.

Feinberg said the first checks to individuals filing claims will go out by Wednesday and within a week for businesses.

Atwater blasts BP claims czar remarks as ‘dismissive’ of needy Floridians

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Senate President Jeff Atwater called BP claims czar Ken Feinberg’s observation that things appear to be back to normal in the Panhandle premature and “dismissive of Floridians.”

Atwater, who’s running for chief financial officer against Democrat Loranne Ausley, issued a press release in response to a story today in The Palm Beach Post in which Feinberg said that Northwest Florida fishermen may not be eligible for the full six months of emergency payments other businesses may be entitled to when he takes over BP’s maligned claims system at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

“Despite incomplete data about the threats facing the people of our state, Ken Feinberg was quoted today saying that ‘I’m watching on TV. The beaches look fabulous.’ These remarks came as he seemed dismissive of Floridians who are seeking financial relief. Understanding the serious problems facing Floridians along the Gulf takes more than watching television, and our beaches are not the only place in Florida facing the threat,” Atwater said in a statement issued by his campaign.

Feinberg, appointed by BP and President Barack Obama to handle claims for individuals and businesses harmed by the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil blast, made his remarks at a meeting in Pensacola on Tuesday, the same day several academic institutions refuted federal officials’ contention that most of the oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico has disappeared.

“Our state has a unique and precious marine ecosystem, and scientists are still reporting that this ecosystem is in trouble. Just today, some of the best and brightest researchers at the University of South Florida said between 70 and 79 percent of all the oil that was spilled is under the surface and still causing ecological damage,” Atwater wrote. “For BP or the federal government to cut and run now would only create another catastrophe.”

House Deepwater Horizon coordinator says no need for special session

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Lawmakers appear to have abandoned their earlier pledge to hold a special session on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in September and instead could possibly wait until the regular session in March.

Rep. Gary Aubuchon, the coordinator of the House’s five Deepwater Horizon oil spill work groups, has until Aug. 31 to give House Speaker Larry Cretul a report on possible legislation to help revive the Florida Panhandle economy or provide tax breaks to residents there. Aubuchon said Tuesday those suggestions probably won’t go to Cretul until sometime during the first week of September.

And although some Panhandle business owners have already shuttered operations and others are on the brink of doing the same because of plummeting revenues during their peak summer tourist season that coincided with the April 20 oil disaster, Aubuchon said early reports from his leaders show there’s no need to rush.

“We are continuing to ask the questions, attend the meetings, gather the data and looking for a productive role the state could play. Whether we begin to play that role in September, or November, or during the regular session is a question yet to be answered,” Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, said after meeting with Ken Feinberg, the claims czar who will take over BP’s problematic claims system on Monday at 12:01 a.m.

“One of the questions I’m asking each work group coordinator to answer is does anything you are working on now or anticipate working on necessitate the need for a special session? The early feedback I’m getting is no it does not,” Aubuchon said. “But the final conclusion has not been reached. And of course that is a decision that will be made by our presiding officers in the House and Senate.”

Even the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, whose members would probably benefit the most, is ok with holding off on a special session until after November.

Sen. Don Gaetz wants to pass a bill that would allow the FRLA to access up to $5 million of a trust fund comprised of fees paid by restaurant and hotel owners. There’s about $9 million in the trust fund, which is supposed to be earmarked for promotions.

FRLA President Carol Dover said she met with GOP legislative leaders last week.
“Coming into September with the group that are going to be gone or waiting until the organizational session with the group that are going to be bound by what they have passed could be a better way,” Dover said.

Lawmakers met in an aborted special session late in June after being ordered bv Gov. Charlie Crist to take up a constitutional amendment banning offshore drilling. They left in less than two hours without passing anything.

But before the special session even began, Senate President Jeff Atwater asked Cretul, R-Ocala, to consider a special session late in August or in September.

Atwater reiterated that hope yesterday.

The North Palm Beach Republican who is running statewide for chief financial officer believes lawmakers should meet within a month “to provide Floridians the assistance and relief that they need in the wake of this crisis,” Emhof said.

Feds send economic development teams to Florida to help oil spill recovery

Monday, August 16th, 2010 by Dara Kam

President Barack Obama’s administration has dispatched two teams to Florida to help the state recovery from the economic downturn caused by BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today announced he is spending $600,000 on 21 economic development teams to the Gulf Coast states, including Florida, impacted by the spill.

The teams, made up of business leaders, government officials and economists, will “conduct in-depth analyses of critical issues” faced by communities like those in the Pensacola region that have seen tourism drop by up to 40 percent in the aftermath of the spill.

The teams will offer recommendations for how to help revive the economy, according to a press release issued by the White House.

Information about where the Florida teams will be located was not available.

One University of Central Florida economist estimated that the oil spill may cost Florida up to $22 billion in lost tourism revenues.

At an economic roundtable in Metairie, La., Locke announced $31.3 million total in coastal restoration and economic development grants for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

“These grants are another sign of this administration’s commitment to help the Gulf Coast’s economy and environment recover in the wake of the BP oil spill,” Locke said.

Locke also announced a $30.7 million restoration grant to the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration by the Department of Commerce’s NOAA to fund the restoration of a critical barrier headland near Port Fourchon, La.

Poll: Crist leads 3-way Senate race, guv contest a squeaker; voters down on Obama, drilling, health care law

Friday, July 30th, 2010 by George Bennett

Crist

Crist

Republican-turned-independent Gov. Charlie Crist leads the general election race for U.S. Senate with 37 percent to 32 percent for Republican Marco Rubio and 17 percent for leading Democrat Jeff Greene, a new Quinnipiac University poll finds.

If U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek is the Democratic nominee, he gets only 13 percent of the vote, with Crist at 39 percent and Rubio at 33 percent, the poll says. Crist was also the leader in an early-June Quinnipiac poll.

Quinnipiac finds a tight November governor’s race. In a poll that has a 3.2 percent margin of error, GOP frontrunner Rick Scott would get 29 percent to Democrat Alex Sink’s 27 percent, with independent Bud Chiles pulling 14 percent.

If Attorney General Bill McCollum is the Republican nominee, he tops Sink by a 27-to-26 percent margin, with Chiles at 14 percent.

Quinnipiac released polls Thursday showing wealthy self-financed outsiders Greene and Scott holding double-digit leads in their respective primaries.

(more…)

Sink seeks clarification from Feinberg on BP claimants’ promise not to sue

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 by Dara Kam

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink wants Ken Feinberg, appointed by President Barack Obama to administer the BP oil spill claims process, to clarify whether individuals and businesses seeking payment from the oil giant must promise not to sue BP in the future.

Sink’s letter comes on the heels of a scathing analysis of Feinberg’s claims process – revamped nine times since he started the take-over late last month – by a Florida legal dream team tapped by Gov. Charlie Crist and Attorney General Bill McCollum.

One of the legal eagles’ chief worries is Feinberg’s requirement that anyone seeking a lump-sum settlement from BP waive their right to sue – long before the full impact from the devastating oil leak are known.

“With millions of gallons of oil discharged in the Gulf of Mexico, the people who live and work along the Gulf Coast cannot know with any certainty today what the full extent of their damages may be in the future. In order to ensure that the claims process is fair, the payment of any Floridian’s claim, including a final claim, should not be conditioned on the waiver of the claimant’s rights under state or federal law,” Sink, a Democrat running for governor, wrote to Feinberg today.

Former attorneys general Jim Smith and Bob Butterworth sent a letter to Crist and McCollum this week outlining their concerns with Feinberg’s process, chief among them his aim to give BP “total peace” regarding payouts.

“While the current BP claims process has been fraught with delays and has failed to adequately compensate the many victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, we are concerned that the process that is about to replace it has the potential to harm the citizens of the Gulf Region as profoundly and deeply as the spill itself,” Smith and Butterworth wrote.
(more…)

Dem pollster calls indie Crist ‘de facto Democratic nominee’ in Senate race

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010 by George Bennett

Republican-turned-independent Gov. Charlie Crist continues to lead Florida’s U.S. Senate race thanks to significant support from Democrats, according to a poll by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

The July 16-18 poll of 900 voters suggests U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek would be a stronger Democratic nominee than his primary rival, billionaire Jeff Greene — but either Dem finishes a distant third behind Crist and Republican Marco Rubio.

Crist leads with 35 percent to 29 percent for Rubio and 17 percent for Meek in one hypothetical. With Greene as the nominee, Crist gets 38 percent, Rubio gets 29 percent and Greene gets 13 percent. Libertarian Alex Snitker gets 3 percent with Greene as the Democratic nominee, 4 percent if Meek is the Democrat.

“Crist has become the de facto Democratic nominee and that’s where most of his support is coming from,” pollster Tom Jensen says in a blog post accompanying the new poll release.

(more…)

Bob Graham-led oil spill commission, light on technical expertise, launches hearings in New Orleans today

Monday, July 12th, 2010 by George Bennett

AP photo shows President Obama with spill commission co-chairs Bob Graham (left) and former EPA Administrator William Reilly.

AP photo shows President Obama with spill commission co-chairs Bob Graham (left) and former EPA Administrator William Reilly.

With former Florida Sen. and offshore drilling critic Bob Graham as one of its co-chairs, a commission appointed by President Obama to study the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began hearings this morning in New Orleans.

Here’s the official White House website describing the commission and its members.

Here’s an Associated Press article from last month noting the lack of technical expertise of the panelists.

And here’s frequently updated coverage from today’s meeting by the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

State senate committee to investigate oil blow-out economic fall-out

Friday, July 2nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

A state select committee on the economy will look into the financial fall-out from the Deepwater Horizon on the Panhandle.

The Senate Select Committee on the Economy will hold its first meeting in Pensacola on July 12.

The committee, headed by Sen. Don Gaetz, wants to hear from local property owners and business owners, among others, to see what if anything state lawmakers can do to help ease the financial strain on the tourism-dependent region.

Gov. Charlie Crist has been pushing lawmakers to hold a special session on oil to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot letting voters decide whether to ban drilling off Florida’s coast. Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said last week he would support a special session on oil sooner rather than later, but GOP House leaders indicated they would rather postpone a special session until after the November general election.

Among the items Gaetz siad his committee will consider: possible tax relief for property owners whose businesses have been struck by revenue shortfalls, the drawn-out claims process, and possible relaxation of environmental regulations to speed up economic recovery.

“This catastrophe is metastasizing daily,” Gaetz, R-Niceville, said in a press release. “Floridians are losing their jobs, business income is slumping and local governments are rapidly burning through their scant reserves. Every barrel of oil that pumps into the Gulf of Mexico poisons the economy of Florida.”

The committee will also review “barriers to an aggressive response” by government officials and BP regarding the economic impact of the oil disaster, the press release said.

Biden to Florida Panhandle: ‘We’re not going anywhere.’

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

bidencristallenWith Gov. Charlie Crist by his side, Vice President Joe Biden vowed that the Sunshine State has the president’s full support as residents and business owners cope with the continuing impacts of oil on beaches and inland waters from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

“This region has been hit hard by acts of God and now by an act of man. We’re going to be feeling the effects, and you’re going to be feeling the effects, for some time to come. But we also intend to stick with this region until it has been made whole,” Biden said early this evening, referring to the devastation of 2004 Hurricane Ivan on the Panhandle. “We’re not going anywhere. We’re staying here until the job is done.”

Flanked by Deepwater Horizon incident commander U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the state’s newly-appointed disaster response leader Capt. Steve Poulin and Crist, Biden spoke of the importance the Gulf of Mexico plays in the “cultural ecosystem” of the coastal communities where fishing has come to an abrupt end.

“There’s in a sense a way of life at stake here, not just an economic concern,” Biden told reporters reading from a prepared statement to a group of reporters in front of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter “Oak” at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola.

“We’re not going to forget the people of the Gulf until their economy is back up and running, until this is cleaned up, until the oil is stopped from gushing from the bottom of the ocean floor. We’re not going to end this until everyone is made whole,” he said.
(more…)

I found skimmers, McCollum tells Obama official. Now get ‘em here.

Friday, June 25th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Bill McCollum stepped up his demands for more skimming vessels to be sent to Florida to combat black waves of oil as thick as two inches deep washing up on Panhandle beaches.

McCollum, a Republican running for governor, sent U.S. Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano a letter today again seeking more skimming boats for the Sunshine State.

McCollum’s staff located at least four skimming vessels operated by a Jacksonville-based company that helped in the Exxon-Valdez oil disaster and included information about Crowley Maritime in his letter to Napolitano.

There are 28 skimming vessels in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida’s shores but thousands more are available from other countries offering services that President Barack Obama’s administration has thus far refused to accept.

“I don’t get it. There’s some real disconnect. It’s either incompetence or somebody’s decided we don’t need them,” McCollum said in an interview. “Why should we leave a single American flag vessel available? Why aren’t we calling them? I don’t know for the life of me.”

Crist to meet with Philippe Cousteau, tour Pensacola

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist is slated to meet with Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the oceanographer icon Jacques Cousteau, tomorrow before touring Pensacola by air and on the ground.

oily_fingersCousteau is carrying on the work of his legendary family as head of the non-profit EarthEcho International, an organization dedicated to protecting the planet’s waters.

Crist is also scheduled to fly over the Pensacola area with the state’s new incident commander, U.S. Coast Guard Commander Joe Boudrow, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole and Florida National Guard Major General Douglas Burnett. After the aerial tour, they’ll hit the beach on foot.

Crist to BP: I want your claims data. Now.

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist wants BP officials to hand over every claims file processed or submitted to the oil giant for reparations from economic losses caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Crist today sent BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles, who visited Pensacola earlier today, a letter demanding the that BP cooperate with his legal and budget staff and the Department of Revenue “to provide us the data we need to evaluate the claims process and measure the economic impact of the losses to our state as a whole.”

Crist wants “a complete electronic file of every business, individual and government claim throughout Florida, to be updated weekly, with indications whether the claim has been approved, denied, or is still pending a decision.”

One economist estimates the oil disaster could cost Florida $11 billion in lost revenues and nearly 200,000 jobs.

Sink wants boots on the ground in Florida for $25,000-plus BP claims

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who’s going to qualify for the governor’s race today, said she was “pretty encouraged” by President Barack Obama’s visit to the Panhandle after meeting with him in Pensacola yesterday.

Sink has been out front demanding that the federal government take over the BP claims process, a tangled web that is taking some business owners weeks to navigate with little success. Obama promised yesterday that a third party would manage an “evergreen account” set up by BP to handle claims.

Sink, a former banker, yesterday asked Obama to set up a large claims office for claims greater than $25,000 in Florida. Those claims now have to go through Louisiana, creating even more hassle for hoteliers, restaurant owners, charter boat captains and marina owners, some of whose losses have already piled up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars range.

Claims in Florida are going to be larger because of the nature of the losses here, Sink said she told Obama, and small business owners shouldn’t “have to deal with all this bureaucracy.”

“They’ve got to have a physical presence here. No more dialing the 1-800 number over in Louisiana. That’s ridiculous,” Sink said.

Florida political tweeters
Video: Politics stories
Categories
Archives