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Guv and guns, fish and food in Panhandle promo tour

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Scott shows off his catch of the day. Courtesy Bass 2 Billfish.

Gov. Rick Scott shopped, fished and supped on seafood during a two-day Panhandle swing to promote the region on the one-year anniversary of last year’s devastating Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Gov. Rick Scott and Ronnie Groom, owner of C and G Sporting Goods in Panama City

Scott stopped in C and G Sporting Goods in downtown Panama City to purchase a fishing license, peruse guns and get a hat for his collegial fishing tourney with fellow Cabinet members later in the day.

When told that Smith and Wesson has a new gun out called “The Governor,” Scott, surrounded by reporters and his ear-piece outfitted security detail, grinned.

“I’ve got FDLE,” said Scott, who already owns several guns. “I’ll be fine.”

The panel came to the Panhandle to advertise its beaches, fishing and emerald-green water.

“As everyone knows, we have pristine beaches. They are beautiful. We have great fishing, the best in the world, and it tastes great,” Scott said before climbing aboard a boat with “Bass 2 Billfish” host Peter Miller.

Scott will complete his cheerleading in Pensacola and Destin today.

BP pledges $30M in marketing money for Panhandle, state seeks more for lost tax revenue

Monday, April 11th, 2011 by Dara Kam

BP officials agreed to give $30 million over six months to seven counties in the Florida Panhandle hardest hit by last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Gov. Rick Scott announced the agreement with the oil giant this morning, calling it a “very small step on the road to recovery.”

Flanked by BP officials and Northwest Florida lawmakers and tourism officials at a press conference this morning, Scott praised BP for the money aimed at giving the region a boost after a dismal tourist season last year as Panhandle beaches and waters were despoiled by oil.

“This is a great day for Florida. I’m very comfortable that my discussion so far with BP is that they’re going to continue to do the right thing,” said Scott, who did away with the oil spill task force created by Gov. Charlie Crist.

The latest funds – which will be distributed over six months in $10 million increments starting in about two weeks – brings to $62 million the company has given to Florida for tourism marketing. BP also gave another $20 million for testing and marketing the state’s seafood industry.

“We recognize how important tourism is to the economy of Florida and especially North Florida,” said BP senior VP Luke Keller. “We’ve worked very hard with local officials there to make sure the beaches are being cleaned up…I can report the beaches are cleaned up and ready for the tourist season.”

Clean-up efforts continue in the Pensacola area, still impacted by tar mats and tar balls.

Scott’s staff said the state will seek money from BP to cover lost tax revenue resulting from the April 20 disaster that unleashed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico just at the onset of the Panhandle’s tourist season. Details about how much money the state wants were not available.

The state has until April 20 to file a federal lawsuit against BP. Louisiana officials have already filed their claim, and Florida U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, sent Scott a letter today urging him to follow suit.

Read BP exec’s Facebook Q and A

Friday, March 18th, 2011 by Dara Kam

BP exec Dave Rainey, head of the oil giant’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, held his third Facebook chat yesterday.

Rainey’s fielded questions ranging from whether the dispersants used after the April 20th Deepwater Horizon blow-out caused acid rain (he says no), what’s up with tar mats still found on beaches, including Pensacola, and oil on the Gulf of Mexico ocean floor.

The first question dealt with dozens of dead infant dolphins who washed ashore along the Gulf Coast – a six-fold increase from previous years.

“Why are the dolphins dead?” Down Hiller, who asked the first question, wanted to know.

Read Rainey’s response after the jump and the entire transcript here. (more…)

Scott, Bondi persuade BP claims czar to improve Florida cases

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

BP claims czar Ken Feinberg has agreed to improve Florida’s claims processing at the urging of Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, Scott announced today.

The changes come after tens of thousands of Panhandle Floridians’ claims have languished for months while trying to seek compensation for the April 20th Deepwater Horizon blow-out.

Bondi and Scott met with Feinberg separately while the lawyer, whose firm earns $850,000 a month to manage the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, was in the Capitol to appear before a House committee.

Read the promised improvements after the jump.

(more…)

Asian-American hoteliers disrupt Feinberg hearing, walk out

Friday, February 18th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Shouting “He lies,” more than a dozen Asian-American hotel owners from Florida’s Gulf Coast walked out of a meeting this morning disrupting BP claims czar Ken Feinberg testimony before a critical House panel digging into his handling of the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

The group then stood outside the House Economic Affairs Committee meeting room and broke into the civil rights song “We Shall Overcome,” led by Art Rocker of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with updated lyrics blasting Feinberg.

More than 85 percent of the 700 Asian-American hotel owners in Florida have not received any payments from Feinberg, forcing many of them on the brink of foreclosure, Pensacola hotelier Nash Patel said.

Nash and leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference met with Feinberg but have had no success in having their claims resolved despite promises from the lawyer whose firm earns $850,000 a month to administer the BP money.

Meanwhile, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association has reported glowingly about Feinberg’s settling of its association members’ claims.

“We’re certainly not,” Patel said.

Without saying Feinberg was discriminating against them, Patel said the differences bear scrutiny.

“Is it because of who we are? We have to look at that,” he said.

(more…)

Crist, Sink rally in Tally against offshore drilling

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink will lead a bipartisan rally today to support a constitutional ban on offshore drilling today.

Crist, a Republican-turned-independent, and Sink, a Democrat, will appear with lawmakers and others at an event at 12:30 on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee.

Crist called lawmakers in for a special session last year to pass a similar amendment to put on the November 2010 ballot, but they snubbed him. The legislature met briefly and adjourned without doing anything after Crist abandoned the GOP and became an independent to avoid a Republican primary in the U.S. Senate race, which he eventually lost to Marco Rubio.

Before leaving office in January, Sink struggled to get BP claims czar Ken Feinberg to improve his claims process after tens of thousands of Panhandle residents, and hundreds of Floridians throughout the state, complained about problems with his Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

That system remains troubled as Feinberg is set to begin making final payments to more than 500,000 applicants for damages caused by the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Yesterday, senators discussed creating a state system for victims of BP’s massive oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to expedite the claims system.

Next Friday, Feinberg will appear before a House committee at the behest of House Speaker Dean Cannon. Hundreds of Panhandle officials and residents are expected to show up. Complaints about Feinberg’s payments from the $20 billion fund set up by BP include delays, an inability to find out where claims are in the process, and inconsistencies in who gets paid and how much.

A federal judge recently ruled that Feinberg is not independent of BP, as he contends, and ordered him to quit saying that he is.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is so fed up with Feinberg’s erratic claims system that on Monday he asked a federal judge to take it over “to facilitate the timely and just processing of claims.”

BP claims czar agrees to appear before House committee

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

BP claims czar Ken Feinberg will appear before the House Economic Affairs Committee on Feb. 18, his office confirmed to committee chairwoman Dorothy Hukill.

Hukill, R-Port Orange, and other lawmakers want Feinberg to explain why tens of thousands of Florida business owners, most of them in the Panhandle, are having so much trouble having their claims paid after the massive oil spill last spring created an economic catastrophe in the region.

Feinberg, in charge of the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility, has been the target of attack by numerous lawyer, lawmakers, Florida residents, and, most recently, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who’s demanding a White House investigation into Feinberg’s process.

Among the complaints: applicants are paid a fraction of what they believe they should receive, with no explanation; individuals are unable to speak with anyone directly about the details of their claims or where they are in the process; a seemingly willy-nilly approach to payment of claims that are nearly identical.

Feinberg insists he’s doing the best he can with the more than half million claims he’s received, and he continues to promise to improve his system.

The public can comment on Feinberg’s draft protocols, released last week, for handling interim and final payments by e-mailing: MethodologyComments@gccf-claims.com.

The methodology for determining eligibility and payment can be viewed here.

McCollum wants $2.5 billion from BP just in case

Thursday, June 10th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Bill McCollum is asking BP to put $2.5 billion into an interest-earning escrow account to cover the state’s losses from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

McCollum’s requests is the latest in Florida candidates’ string of demands for cash from the oil giant.

A month ago, state Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Greenacres Democrat running to replace McCollum, asked BP to put at least $1 billion into escrow to cover possible damages.

McCollum and the other Florida Cabinet members were less than pleased with some of British Petroleum Vice President Robert Fryar’s Tuesday appearance before the panel.

Fryar told McCollum he did not know if BP has earmarks any funds to pay claims to Florida government, citizens or businesses resulting from the April 20 disaster.

University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith recently estimated the impact of the oil disaster on the state’s economy could range from $2.2 billion to nearly $11 billion.

McCollum’s wants BP to put $2.5 billion into a savings account and acknowledge that may not be enough.

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