Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa, Hillsborough County preparing to sue BP over oil-spill claims

TAMPA — Days before the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, attorneys for Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa are moving to sue oil giant BP over tens of millions of dollars in lost tax revenues.

Hillsborough County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to file suit over the county's claim that it suffered nearly $43 million in losses — from hotel, gas, sales and other tax and fee receipts — as a result of the spill. Commissioners previously had voted to pursue a claim against the company for the losses. The county has entered the claims process, but commissioners' original vote didn't explicitly authorize a lawsuit. They approved pursuing the lawsuit Wednesday without discussion.

"I still believe we have incurred damages from bed taxes and other revenues," said commissioner Kevin Beckner, who first recommended the county pursue damages from BP, before the meeting. "So I think it's imperative that we make any attempt to recover any of those losses that were due to the county."

The statute of limitations for filing a claim through the courts expires Monday, officials say. The county has hired the Fowler White Boggs law firm to pursue its claim. The firm is working under a contract that would pay it 20 percent of what is recovered, plus legal expenses, if it secures any money for the county. It will not be paid otherwise.

Meanwhile, Tampa's claim for more than $50 million to cover damages to business and tourism has not been resolved, City Attorney James Shimberg Jr. said Wednesday.

Consequently, Shimberg said, the city's special counsel on the oil spill, Steven Yerrid, is finalizing a complaint against BP expected to be filed in federal court by the end of the week.

While no oil washed into Tampa Bay, the city says visitors were scared away while the well gushed uncapped for months, prompting experts to speculate about whether currents looping around the Gulf of Mexico would spread the crude.

To prepare Tampa's claim, forensic accountants found a "measurable effect" from the spill after scrutinizing more than a dozen sources of city revenue, Yerrid said when the city's claim was filed in January. Those revenues covered everything from property and sales taxes to taxes on city utilities and communication services to street car, golf course and parking revenues.

Yerrid's firm also retained an expert in tourism economics to quantify the impact on each source of revenue by modeling what revenues the city would have received if the spill had never happened versus what it actually did receive.

Because officials believe that the spill discouraged tourists who would have brought repeat business, a little more than half of the city's claim consists of damages that officials expect Tampa to sustain in the future, according to Yerrid, whose law firm stands to receive 25 percent of money recovered.

Officials in Bay County in the Florida Panhandle agreed to settle their lost-revenue claim with BP for $15.3 million, which came to $12.5 million after attorneys' fees.

The Deepwater Horizon rig blew up 50 miles off Louisiana on April 20, 2010.

It took BP more than 85 days to cap the well on the sea floor. By that time, an estimated 172 million gallons of crude oil had gushed into the gulf.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 allows governments to be reimbursed for net lost revenue from taxes, fees or other sources that officials couldn't collect and couldn't mitigate as a direct result of a spill.

Information from the News Herald in Panama City was used in this report.

Commission's full slate

In other matters Wednesday:

• Commissioners agreed to have the county look into creating an ordinance that would regulate locksmiths at the request of their chairman, Ken Hagan. Hagan was responding to reports of dummy companies advertising their services under fake addresses and then gouging customers.

• Democrat Les Miller postponed discussion of his proposal to change the makeup of the commission. He wants two members elected countywide, with five representing geographic districts. Currently, four board members serve geographic districts. Miller said his proposal would bring government closer to the people and enable the possible creation of a district with concentrations of Hispanic voters.

• Some board members expressed concern that $2 million they earmarked two years for repairs to four Ybor City historic social clubs has not been spent. Staffers said they are waiting for club leaders to submit independent audits before dispensing money.

Tampa, Hillsborough County preparing to sue BP over oil-spill claims 04/17/13 [Last modified: Thursday, April 18, 2013 12:04am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Rocket Man' Kim answers by calling Trump a 'dotard'


    SEOUL, South Korea — Famous for using bombastic, derogatory and often-awkward English slams against enemies, North Korean state media sent people scrambling for dictionaries Friday with a dispatch that quotes leader Kim Jong Un calling President Donald Trump "the mentally deranged U.S. dotard."

    The what?

    In this Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, photo distributed on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a statement in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's speech to the United Nations, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim, in an extraordinary and direct rebuke, called Trump "deranged" and said he will "pay dearly" for his threats, a possible indication of more powerful weapons tests on the horizon. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. [Associated Press]
  2. SB lanes on I-75 closed at State Road 52 in Pasco


    Southbound lanes on Interstate 75 are closed in Pasco County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  3. These two documents illustrate how Florida has made it harder to access inspection reports of nursing homes, heavily censoring what the public can see. In the foreground is a document obtained from a federal agency that details the findings of a Feb. 2016 inspection at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where 10 patients died after Hurricane Irma. Behind it is the state's version of the same document, showing how it has been redacted before being released to the public. [Miami Herald]
  4. Amber Alert canceled after Bradenton siblings found in Alabama

    Public Safety

    An Amber Alert was canceled early Friday morning for four Bradenton siblings who were taken by their mother, who authorities said does not have custody of the children.

    An Amber Alert has been issued for four Bradenton siblings who were taken by their mother, who does not have custody of the children. [Florida Department of Law Enforcement]