ORLANDO — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could be an environmental and economic disaster for Florida because the state’s tourism industry depends on having the beautiful beaches.
The Florida Democrat made the comments before attending a tourism conference in central Florida on Monday.
Nelson added: “We have an ecological and environmental disaster in the making.”
He says people in Florida’s Panhandle are panicked.
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He said: “They’re about to start their tourism season and they’re facing the oil spill.”
Nelson asked the Interior Department’s inspector general Monday to look at whether regulators were influenced by the oil industry in the way the industry was allowed to select blowout preventers.
Crist says Fla. will send oil cleanup bill to BP
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist says officials don’t yet have an estimate of what it’s going to cost to clean up Florida’s beaches and waters if a massive oil spill reaches the state.
Crist, though, said Monday that Florida would send the bill to the “responsible party” — BP PLC, the oil company that drilled the leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Crist said he shared the frustration of local officials who are worried about not having enough floating booms to protect their beaches.
The governor, though, said Florida would “have to do the best with what we have.”
Crist also signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in 13 more Gulf Coast counties from Franklin in the Panhandle to Sarasota in southwest Florida.
Cruise companies closely monitoring oil spill
MIAMI — Cruise companies are monitoring the oil spill closely in case there is a need to change the courses of ships in the Gulf of Mexico.
Carnival Corp. has the Triumph ship that arrived in New Orleans Saturday morning, disembarked its passengers and took on a new group before sailing out that evening without problems. Carnival’s Fantasy ship was scheduled to sail out from Mobile, Ala., on Monday.
There were no issues reported in Tampa, Carnival’s only Florida port operating on the Gulf side.
Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman Courtney Recht said there were no ships scheduled to leave New Orleans until the fall and the company had not fielded any phone calls from worried vacationers.
A phone message was left for a Royal Caribbean Cruise spokeswoman.
Fla. Panhandle residents demand answers from BP
NAVARRE — About 100 Florida Panhandle residents and business owners peppered BP and local officials with concerns and questions in a standing-room only meeting in Navarre, east of Pensacola.
During Monday’s meeting they demanded to know how the oil spill would effect their homes, health, livelihoods and lifestyles.
Forty-six-old Montana Kurtz-Minck fears the spa and a surf school she owns could go under because of the oil spill.
She asked a BP representative who would pay her mortgage when she was unemployed and was directed to a hot line that another attendee had previously said was constantly jammed.
Residents anxiously asked about how BP planned to deal with oil on their white sandy shores and whether officials had any plans to protect precious wildlife.
Maddox wants drilling stopped off Florida coast
TALLAHASSEE — A Democratic candidate for agriculture commissioner in Florida wants statewide political candidates to join him in a pledge to oppose offshore oil drilling.
Scott Maddox, a longtime offshore drilling critic, said Monday he doesn’t understand how any Florida politician could support drilling off the state’s coastline.
Maddox’s challenge came as state environmental officials braced for oil slicks approaching Florida’s coastline.
Crude oil has been pouring into the Gulf of Mexico since a rig exploded April 20 about 50 miles off Louisiana’s coastline.
Maddox said he will never support any measure to allow offshore oil drilling and wants candidates for governor, attorney general and chief financial officer to sign such a pledge.
Images show oil spill breaking apart, shrinking
MIAMI — The latest satellite image of the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico indicates it has shrunk since last week. But scientists say that only means some of the oil has gone underwater.
Hans Graber of the University of Miami Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing said Monday the new image found oil covering about 2,000 square miles. The slick was roughly 3,400 square miles last Thursday.
Graber says the apparent shrinkage came about because some of the oil that had been visible at the surface has been mixed into the water, as strong winds have kicked up waves.
The new image also shows that patches of oil have begun to break away from it. But it’s not clear when any sizable amount of oil will reach land.
— Herald wire reports