Monday, March 10, 2014

Florida finally joins federal litigation against BP

On March 5, 2014, Florida's governor finally took steps to join the federal litigation against BP for environmental damages -- something he chose not to do in 2011. The official announcement is on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection website.

The Florida DEP filed its own complaint against BP and other oil spill defendants on March 5 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division.

Dave Dunwoody, News Director at WUWF, explains the situation well:

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.

Source: (includes audio version)

Zack McDonald at The News Herald explains the nature of the federal litigation further:

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that BP and the other defendants are responsible and strictly liable for damages to "Florida's sandy beaches, salt marshes, wetlands, estuaries, submerged aquatic vegetation, deepwater communities and coral reefs as well as injuries to numerous wildlife species and aquatic species including fish, sea turtles, oysters, birds, and manatees."

Florida also is seeking damages to past and/or future removal costs and natural resource damages, including the loss of recreational and other uses of those resources.


The case filed is separate from the suit filed by the Attorney General's office last year. The Attorney General's suit deals with economic losses Florida suffered as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Wednesday’s filing seeks to hold the named defendants accountable for injuries to the environment the state suffered as a result of the oil spill.

However, Attorney General Pam Bondi also is seeking a declaratory judgment establishing the liability of BP and other companies for the natural resource damages sustained as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.


The full complaint filed by the Florida DEP on March 5 is available online in PDF format.