Florida counties and cities in the path of the Gulf oil spill have not the slightest idea at this point how they could be impacted economically.
Little wonder. Even the state tax collection agency is at a loss, trying to calculate the costs involved in an ever-changing, ever-moving, ever-growing target.
Attorney General Bill McCollum and former attorneys general Bob Butterworth and Jim Smith sought information Tuesday that the state will need to create a process for recouping its losses. The team is gathering information should it seek litigation against BP, which it has not decided to do. The three hoped to come out of the meeting with recommendations about how to refine the claims process.
“We don’t know how long this is going to take,” McCollum told the press before the meeting. “We don’t know the severity of it at the end of the day. What we do know is, we need a process.”
The 26 Florida counties affected need more money and information about the actions the state is taking in compensation for losses from BP, Ginger Delegal, general counsel for the Florida Association of Counties, told the legal team. The claims process has been confusing and lengthy, she said.
Counties have needed to compensate for a change in the claims process that requires them to submit claims directly to BP, instead of submitting them to the state. Two counties have submitted claims this way so far, Delegal said. The change was precipitated by Louisiana parishes that wanted to deal directly with the company. Right now, the counties don’t know if this way works, Delegal said.
Butterworth said state litigation against BP “may be very, very likely,” but the state needs be careful not to get caught in a lengthy legal battle that produces no results.
Smith cautioned claimants not to rush to file lawsuits, as heavy litigation “would get BP to stop working with us.”
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