Special Reports

Buchanan talks oil, economy at LWR Town Hall

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Left unchecked, a ruptured deep-sea well like the Deepwater Horizon rig off the coast of Louisiana could spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico for decades, Rep. Vern Buchanan told a crowd of more than 200 who attended his eighth town hall meeting Saturday.

“But we won’t let that happen,” said Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

Under the current worst-case scenario, the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers and started one of the greatest environmental disasters in United States history could require as long as four months before the unchecked flow can be turned off, he said.

The sooner that happens, the better the expected outcome for local beaches.

Local residents who jammed the meeting wanted to talk about the oil disaster, as well as the economy, jobs, and what some saw as an unsettling shift in the direction of the country.

Buchanan said he has many questions about the accident and wants to know if BP received exemptions from federal regulations, or got a “special deal.”

“We need to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. It’s crazy,” he said.

He promised that there would be a full investigation and that BP would be held fully accountable, but that “the first priority is to cap the well.”

Buchanan also questioned whether BP should have the lead in handling the disaster.

Many ideas have been floated on the Internet and elsewhere about ways to stanch the flow of oil, and Buchanan’s town hall attracted a representative of a Casper, Wyo., company who wanted to pitch his technology.

“I don’t care whose idea it is, we need to get it capped,” Buchanan said.

Sharon Casper, a local real estate agent, asked for help with the epidemic of mortgage foreclosures.

“It’s a terrible situation for people who have had 800 credit scores their whole lives,” she said.

Buchanan invited Casper to meet with him after the meeting but said banks need to sit down and work it out with people.

Banks have their own issues, the three biggest being “capital, capital, capital,” Buchanan said.

Most banks are under enormous pressure because of the tremendous run-up in real estate and subsequent collapse, he said.

Several residents expressed continued misgivings about the healthcare reform bill.

One woman said, “this is the first time in my life I am actually scared for my country,” and asked if there is any way that the health care bill could be changed or repealed.

When a law is enacted, it’s tough to repeal, but not impossible, Buchanan said.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.