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Friday April 18th 2014

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Commissioner says don’t believe BP


I returned to the Escambia County Emergency Operations Center for the first time in four weeks…and I got some memorable quotes and answers that reputed much of what BP spokesperson Lucia Bustamonte said on WEAR TV last evening.

Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson welcomed me back to the “deathstar.”

Grover Robinson told the media that he had visited Pensacola Beach earlier Sunday morning and had walked about 500 yards around the area of the cross. He found little specks of tar in the tide line.

Robinson said, There were cleanup crews on the beach, but I can tell you I’m still not satisfied with the degree of cleanup.” He said that BP needed to communicate better and have more supervision of the workers.

He said that Santa Rosa Island Authority will testing on Monday equipment that will sift the tarballs out of the sand better than the BP-approved method of rakes and shovels.

“The job just isn’t getting taken care of,” said Robinson. The commission chairman made clear however that BP is in control of the beach cleanup, but the BOC has asked the Unified Command to release the control, but not the responsibility for the cost, to Escambia County.

“I asked BP on Friday evening how many beaches they have cleaned,” said Robinson, “They said three. Well, we clean our beach every single day. I think we know little more about beach cleanup than you do.”

I asked Robinson about the workers. Who are they? Do know if they have criminal backgrounds or other issues?

“The majority are hired by Workforce Escarosa,” said Robinson. “BP told us 83 percent are Floridians. We want 100 percent and BP is supposed to give us a report on Monday or Tuesday.”

Commissioner Gene Valentino reported that on Perdido Key this morning that he has seen tarballs that ranged from marble to softball size. He talked about BP and the Unified Command denying the county’s request to test sub-surface waters in the gulf to see if what is happening there.

I told Commissioner Valentino about Ms. Lucia Bustamonte, BP Director of Public Affairs, claim last night WEAR TV that BP has “spared no expense.”

“Do you it’s an accurate statement that BP has spared no expense on this cleanup?” I asked Valentino.

“That’s absolutely false,” said Valentino. “They have not spared no expense. In fact, Ms. Bustamonte, whom you are talking about, got our righteous indignation when we talked to her about how the Vessels of Opportunity program fallen through the cracks and why only 30 or 40 charter boat captains out of some 1500 were from the Escambia County area.”

I asked, “Should the public believe what BP says?”

“No,” Commissioner Valentino said. “That’s why Commissioner Robinson got my support last Thursday so we could forward unanimously with the resolution to take BP out of the operating authority.”

“Ms. Bustamonte also said that BP has set up a claim process for governments,” I said. “Have we sent a claim for all we have spent to date?”

Robinson, “We are keeping up with that that. Amy (Lovoy) say our expenditures for May are around $3.1 million.”

“But that’s not with BP,” I pressed,” that’s for reimbursement from the monies given the state.”

“That is correct,” Robinson replied. “It is for the state, but ultimately it will be coming from BP.”