BP brought another $25 million to Florida on Tuesday, but instead of a thank you they got a lot more criticism.
Between barrages, Gov. Charlie Crist and three independently elected Cabinet members asked for more money and said they want it fast to help Floridians recover business losses resulting from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico now invading the state’s coastline.
They told BP senior vice president Bob Fryar that time is of the essence as thousands of Florida businesses are on the brink of failure if they can’t get money soon.
“I don’t think speed is in your vocabulary yet,” Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink told Fryar. “People are just trying to survive.”
Crist, who is seeking a U.S. Senate seat as an independent, asked for more of everything from BP: More boom and more skimmers to clean up some of the slicks and sheen, more money for advertising and cleanup, and claims offices in every coastal county in the state.
“We demand it,” Crist said. “You’re a company with enormous resources.”
The latest $25 million from BP is designed to help defray the state’s costs of responding to the spill, brings Florida’s total to $75 million already received from the company. The state had requested another $125 million before Tuesday’s meeting.
“We’re trying to make sure people with legitimate claims will be paid quickly,” said Fryar, a petroleum engineer who has spent 25 years with the London-based energy giant. “BP will pay all legitimate claims.”
Fryar, who was dispatched to the meeting in place of BP chief executive office Tony Hayward, said the company had paid 18,500 of the 38,000 claims received so far.
Florida’s tourism, fishing and hospitality industries are threatened by the runaway spill from the Deepwater Horizon explosion 50 days ago in the Gulf. Oil has come ashore in the form of tar balls in the extreme western Florida Panhandle, creating doubt in the minds of tourists about vacationing in Florida this year.
Sink and Crist urged Fryar to have BP officials visit businesses hurt by the expanding spill.
“It’s no fun watching grown men cry,” Sink said. “That’s what I’ve seen.”
McCollum and Sink, who are hoping to succeed Crist as governor and possible opponents in November, had little positive to say about BP’s response to the crisis.
“I don’t think you’ve done enough,” Attorney General Bill McCollum scolded. “There’s got to be more that you can be doing.”
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