Tuesday, December 12, 2017
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: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
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Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17