Sunday, August 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Don't let BP back out on deal

Polluting the Gulf of Mexico with millions of barrels of oil was bad enough. BP wants the courts to save money by rewriting the terms of a settlement agreement in the 2010 blowout of the offshore rig Deepwater Horizon. This looks like buyers' remorse from a company that benefited from having thousands of individual claims resolved in a single swoop. An appellate court Friday correctly held BP to the settlement it signed. The company and the courts should now turn their attention to ensuring an orderly flow to the claims process.

In court filings and national newspaper advertisements, BP has faulted the administration of the Gulf settlement program — the fund established in 2012 to pay for economic losses from the spill. It alleged fraud, corruption and questionable payments. U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the case, denied BP's request last month that claimants be forced to prove any damages were caused directly by the spill. Barbier noted that the settlement included a waiver for claimants in zones nearer to the spill, creating an assumption that the claims were valid. This blanket language was the price BP accepted to resolve these claims in a timely manner and to avoid thousands of individual lawsuits.

The court-appointed fund administrator has an obligation to process the claims responsibly and root out any fraud. But at more than 1,000 pages, the settlement is hardly a half-baked framework for determining the legitimacy of monetary losses. BP has legal avenues to ensure the fund administrator and the trial courts disburse the money appropriately. It also has a legal duty to stand by the agreement.

The settlement, after all, gave BP some certainty about the extent of its liability for the spill in exchange for getting money into the hands of its victims as quickly as possible. That trade-off is a straightforward principle of contract law. It shouldn't be torpedoed by a public relations campaign aimed at undoing an agreement one side suddenly finds unacceptable.

BP initially projected the settlement would cost $7.8 billion; in October, it boosted that figure to $9.2 billion. That cannot be a consideration for the courts. The only issue that matters is BP's legal obligation in the settlement agreement, which also had a goal getting reparations to victims without undue delay. The spill to many whose lives and businesses were harmed is not a fading memory. The courts are right to enforce the agreement and hold both the company and the claims program accountable for delivering on the promises made in the aftermath of the nation's worst environmental disaster.

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Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

One small island of sanity in the generally insane ocean of American gun culture is the near-complete federal ban on civilian possession of fully automatic weapons — machine guns.The nation got a bitter taste last year of what we’d be facing on a reg...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t been — and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18