In the months after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded 300 miles off Florida’s coast in April 2010, hotel and restaurant owners, fishermen and shopkeepers kept a grim vigil, waiting to see whether the millions of gallons of spilled oil would taint the state’s beaches and harm its seafood.
From a distance, thousands of others watched too, the Canadian, European and American tourists and business travelers who had hoped to rent the Tampa Bay, Sarasota or Naples hotel rooms, dine at the restaurants, shop at the stores, and meet in the conference halls along the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, many traveled elsewhere. Although no flocks of oil-soaked pelicans washed up on Florida’s shores, and the 200 million spilled gallons did not blacken beaches as so many feared, the coastal communities and their businesses were nonetheless damaged by the BP oil spill, through economic losses — the visitors who never came. That is the contention of cities and counties, and thousands of business owners whose revenues fell in the months following the disaster.
A number of Florida resorts and other businesses that sought early compensation for their losses — the plunge in expected revenue — found their requests denied, although London-based BP had set up a $20 billion fund for victims. But the firms couldn’t prove their revenue declines were related to the spill.
In December, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans gave final approval to a $7.8 billion partial class-action settlement providing for economic and property damages from the spill, including those in Florida. BP separately agreed to pay $4.5 billion in penalties and pleaded guilty to felony misconduct in the disaster, which cost 11 lives. Barbier now is presiding over a trial to determine whether BP was grossly negligent, with another $17 billion in potential penalties at stake.
A new, streamlined process recognizes losses farther from the explosion site, and many Florida companies are receiving settlements that earlier were denied. With the new guidelines, thousands of firms may qualify if they fall within designated coastal zones and show a 2010 drop in revenue after the disaster, with a rebound in 2011. But the window to collect damages from the largest oil spill in U.S. history is closing — economic and property damage claims must be filed by April 2014. bp holdings article code 85258080768, Feeding Frenzy fraud watch
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