MANATEE -- On the eve of the first anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill explosion, Glen Brooks, president of the Gulf Fisherman’s Association, said most of his 500 members have moved on beyond the catastrophe which threatened their livelihood.
A few members of the association, based primarily in Cortez, Madeira, Clearwater and St. Petersburg, have filed claims.
“We haven’t had any ill effects from anything,” Brooks said. “We figure we’ll lose one year class of fish. That’s pretty much all we know until scientists get done with all their work.
“Hopefully they won’t give us any bad news,” he added. “For the most part everyone is trying to get back to work and keep working.”
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Commercial fisherman, restaurateurs, hoteliers and others who may have suffered financial loss because of the Deepwater Horizon have until April 20, 2013, to file a claim against BP, according to the Florida Attorney General’s Office.
Carl Nelson, a maritime attorney based in Tampa, said he represents about 500 parties who have filed a claim against BP. None of his clients are from Manatee County.
To date, Nelson said has secured settlements of more than $30 million, and argued against anyone filing a lawsuit at this time.
“Filing a lawsuit now is the worst possible thing they can do. Over 60,000 people have been baited into this proceeding,” Nelson said. “It will be many, many years before they get their claims resolved.”
The Multi-District litigation in New Orleans involves “hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed by a wide variety of parties against BP, Transocean (the owner of the oil rig) and others,” according to the fact sheet from the Florida Attorney General’s Office.
The deadline for joining that lawsuit is today.
But Nelson called that “a false deadline,” as claimants may still pursue other compensation without filing litigation.
Nelson praised Gov. Rick Scott’s decision announced in Panama City not to join the lawsuit against BP, but to file a claim against the oil giant.
“We are recommending that everyone stay as far away as they can get from the lawsuit,” Nelson said.
But others were not so laudatory of Scott’s decision.
“This is a dereliction of duty. There is absolutely no reason why Gov. Scott’s administration cannot spend a few minutes filing out simple paperwork to preserve Florida’s rights against BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and other defendants,” Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, said in a press release.
“Joining the suit would not prevent our state from pursuing a claim against BP or anybody else. It would merely be an avenue to make a claim for damages and other relief beyond what BP may pay through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility,” Kriseman said.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor also weighed in against Scott:
“I urge Gov. Scott to aggressively fight to protect Florida taxpayers. Other states and communities appear to be more proactive in their approaches to recoup tax dollars and damages.
As the Alabama Attorney General said when he filed suit last August, ‘based on BP’s broken promises, their history of saying one thing and doing another,’ only a hard-nosed, aggressive approach will do,” Castor said in a press release.