County accepts $5.2 million BP Oil settlement offer
There is now financial closure on the Lee County level to a Gulf oil spill that occurred more than five years ago off the coast of Louisiana and resulted in the worst maritime environmental disaster in United States history.
Today, during a special meeting, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners unanimously agreed to a settlement with BP America Production Company for a nonnegotiable amount of just over $5.2 million. The action results from the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform explosion on April 20, 2010 that caused a spill of more than 200 million gallons of crude oil.
While no oil or byproducts have been known to reach Southwest Florida shores, the event, nonetheless, caused “economic injury” to the area. County officials submitted a claim for compensation of damages from the incident on Jan. 18, 2013.
“We’re happy with the results and recommendation to accept the $5.2 million,” said Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass after the meeting.
During the meeting, Vice Chair Frank Mann inquired what account the money would be deposited in. Lee County Attorney Richard Wesch told him it was legally unrestricted in terms of allowable use. County officials assured Mann the settlement check would be placed in the general, or operational, fund and then will end up in reserves until county officials take more action on distribution.
Pendergrass recommended a future workshop to discuss how to use the money. He hopes to see it be used for tourism in some fashion.
“Hopefully we give it back to tourism a little bit, because that’s where money was lost from,” he said.
The special meeting occurred during the Commission’s July meeting break. Only three commissioners (Chairman Brian Hamman, Mann and Pendergrass) were present to vote on the matter. The matter was considered urgent due to the requested response date of the Federal court system being at the end of the business day.
It was noted that Sarasota, Collier and Charlotte counties had already taken action to accept settlement offers.
Prior to the vote, Wesch stated County officials recommended acceptance of the offer to “close out this chapter of this unfortunate series of events.” He disclosed the exact amount of the settlement to be $5,240,322.
BP’s offer to pay the sum hopes to somewhat relieve Lee County’s economic losses as full and final settlement of all claims against the company and others resulting from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Lee County will remain eligible to also receive funding pursuant to the RESTORE Act.