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Sink urges BP to help protect Florida businesses

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink urged BP officials on Saturday to quickly do more to protect Florida businesses in the wake of the oil spill.

Sink asked BP to immediately set up a fund to begin reimbursing Florida fisheries, hotels and tourist-related businesses for verifiable losses.

"We want to be sure that there is a clear process by which our businesses can file claims," said Sink, who emerged from an hour-long meeting with BP's St. Petersburg incident commander, Keith Seilhan.

Sink also asked BP to hire locally for the cleanup, and to consider setting up a global media campaign to boost Florida tourism.

While she criticized the oil company for not communicating well with the state in the past, she noted that her contact with the company has improved.

"Now, instead of using an 800 number," she said, "I've got Keith on speed dial."

Hearing on rig blast to begin Tuesday

The Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service are holding public hearings on the investigation into what caused the Deepwater Horizon oil rig to explode off the Louisiana coast.

The agencies said Saturday that the hearings will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday in New Orleans. The joint investigation will be co-chaired and staffed by members of both agencies.

The board is tasked with investigating the cause of an April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers at an oil rig operated by BP PLC. BP is still trying to stop the leak spewing more than 200,000 gallons of oil a day.

Congressional committees have also announced they will hold hearings on the oil spill.

Beachgoers crowd sand in Mississippi

More than 60 miles of Dauphin Island, Ala., where about half a dozen of what appear to be tar balls were collected by Saturday afternoon, a representative from Biloxi's Ship Island Excursions said people were taking ferries Saturday to Ship Island, loaded with beach equipment for a day of fun in the sun.

"The beaches are beautiful and the water's great," Kevin Buckel said. He said no signs of oil were reported during their two trips on Saturday, and he expected the same results today.

"We're hoping for the best," he said.

200 gather for "Clean, Baby, Clean" protest

About 200 people protested the dangers of offshore drilling at a rally in New Orleans.

Protesters signed a large banner Saturday that said "This Is Your Crude Awakening," in reference to the April 20 explosion.

Some protesters held signs with slogans such as "Clean, Baby, Clean" and "Save Our Wetlands Now."

Sierra Club president Allison Chin said America needs to clean up more than just the Gulf Coast.

Software salesman John Sconza said he's angry the spilled oil wasn't stopped sooner.

Flights to offshore wildlife refuge halted

Federal officials have halted flights to the Breton National Wildlife Refuge off the Louisiana coast, saying aircraft hired by news organizations threaten the birds nesting in the barrier islands.

A statement Saturday from the Coast Guard and other officials overseeing the oil spill cleanup said the flights and landings threaten the very birds that the media are covering.

All access to the refuge has been closed as cleanup crews assess the damage from oil leaking from a well in the Gulf of Mexico. The statement said the birds are leaving nests because of the flights, exposing eggs to predators.

Sink urges BP to help protect Florida businesses 05/08/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 10, 2010 9:58am]

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