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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rep. Kriseman lashes out at Gov. Scott for hesitancy to take legal action against BP



Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, angered by this Times/Herald story about Gov. Rick Scott considering litigation against BP as a last resort, criticized the governor Wednesday for not taking aggressive action against the oil giant.

"I think all of us in not only the state House and the Democratic Caucus, but all around the state, ought to be asking ourselves this simple question: Why? What is he thinking? Who does this man represent? Is he representing Floridians, and is he representing the State of Florida, or is he more concerned about a foreign corporation like British Petroleum, BP?" Kriseman said, standing between a satellite image of the spill and a blown-up Reuters photograph of an oiled pelican struggling with an oil boom off the Louisiana coast in June.

Scott said this week that he does not want to resort to a lawsuit, as BP showed it could be cooperative through a $30 million grant this week. Still, his office said a strategy for filin a state claim — a precursor to filing suit under the Oil Pollution Act -- is under way.

Kriseman thinks that's not good enough, and that Florida should join a huge lawsuit against Transocean handled by a federal district judge in New Orleans. The judge will determine portions of fault not just for Transocean, the owner of the blown rig, but against BP, Halliburton and other parties involved in the disaster.

The filing deadline for plaintiffs in this case is April 20 -- the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Kriseman said that the state had only until April 20 to make a claim. While that is true for the federal case, it is not the deadline for Florida to file a claim.

"Claims against BP or any other defendant can be made three years from the date that damages were suffered," said Attorney General spokeswoman Jenn Meale today.

The governor's office reiterated Wednesday that Scott's team is still reviewing its options, which could include filing a lawsuit in the federal district court case by next week -- "if it's something we want to pursue," said governor spokesman Lane Wright.

"We don't want to rush into a decision," Wright said.

Still, Kriseman said, "I would much rather be a part of that suit with everyone else. I think it strengthens our hand, strenghtens our negotiating. There's really no reason we shouldn't be a part of that."

The Attorney General's office, which says it is working with Scott's legal team, has said joining the suit is on the table, but so are other options, like filing a big state claim against BP directly. Meale said in the story that avoiding litigation, and being thorough about Florida's potential claim, could mean Florida gets money faster than those involved in the massive lawsuit.

When asked how he felt about the state's measured approach, Kriseman said he doesn't "buy that argument."

Kriseman took several shots at Scott, from his out-of-state background and personal history as the subject of lawsuits.

"If this governor has no interest in advocating for Floridians and doing the job that he was hired to do, then he needs to resign. He wasn't hired as the CEO of Florida Inc," Kriseman said.

Scott's office said it would not respond to "personal attacks" againstthe governor. Wright did point out that the governor is working in Florida's interest as it relates to BP. Scott announced Monday a $30 million grant from BP for seven Panhandle counties to use for tourism and marketing purposes. He called it a "very small step on the road to recovery."

"Wonderful, we're glad he's doing that," Kriseman said. But Kriseman echoed concerns of Pinellas County's director of tourism in this Tuesday Times story: Pinellas beaches suffered too, and the county has only received $1 million from BP since August despite asking for more in a later request.

[Last modified: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 4:25pm]


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