SARASOTA – City commissioners voted unanimously Monday afternoon to accept a $3.2 million settlement from BP for damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Commissioners met with City Attorney Robert Fournier and attorneys William Robertson and Steven Teppler to review BP’s offer during a private meeting, as allowed under Florida’s open government law.
The city originally sought $15 million as compensation, but Robertson said that was an effort to collect as much money as possible.
“It’s not uncommon in a federal suit to claim as much as you can,” said Robertson, who is CEO of Kirk Pinkterton P.A. and is representing $40 million in BP oil claims. “It’s always a compromise. As attorneys, you throw in your hat to get as much as you can.”
After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010, gushing nearly 134 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and staggering Florida’s tourism business. Although Sarasota beaches never saw gloppy tarballs, the perception that oil damage was widespread around the Gulf, coupled with the Great Recession, led to vacant hotels, shuttered restaurants and layoffs.
The economic and environmental losses precipitated a $18.7 billion deal between BP, Florida, four other Gulf states and the federal government. The Sunshine State could ultimately see around $3.25 billion in recovery funds over the next two decades.
Sarasota County commissioners voted unanimously last week to settle with BP for $14.2 million.
Teppler, who works with the Abbott Law Group, said BP’s settlement with the city was fair.
“It’s a reasonable settlement; no one got the value of their claim,” Teppler said. “Compared to most, Sarasota did well.”
Although some municipalities are receiving the first BP payments, thousands of individuals and businesses are still waiting for their piece of the settlement.
Robertson said of 371,000 class-action claims filed against BP, only 99,000 have had their claims paid over the past five years.
But now that cities are settling quickly, rather than spending thousands in legal costs and years in litigation, Robertson is more optimistic.
“Had this been litigated, it would still be happening after I retire,” Robertson said. “And I’m 56.”
Original article here.