I spoke with Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson this morning about his and Santa Rosa Commissioner Gordon Goodin’s meetings with the Coast Guard and British Petroleum. Congressman Jeff Miller set up the meetings as part of the Gulf Coast/Washington trip for area leaders that lobbies Congress and the Defense Department on the behalf our military bases
The Coast Guard meeting in D.C. took place with the Congressmen and the Chairman of each of the westernmost counties. The Coast Guard attended in person.
Grover said, “One of my objectives was to secure a commitment to the Perdido boom plan including coordination with Alabama and attempting to secure open ocean boom for the Pensacola Pass as opposed to the harbor boom we currently have.”
No one can find any open ocean boom, according to Grover. However, he did get commitments from the Coast Guard, Congressman Miller and Congressman Bonner (Alabama) that Perdido Bay would be secured with a coordinated effort. The Coast Guard will make every effort to secure open ocean boom for the pass.
BP sent no officials to D.C. meeting and only participated by conference call. Our favorite BP coed, Liz Castro, was one of the BP officials on the line. The Panhandle delegation talked to BP and expressed its frustrations.
“First we started with money,” Grover said. “I tried to explain that equal amounts, $25 million, for each state was unfair and inequitable. Mississippi has 46 miles; Alabama 53 miles of Gulf front beach; and Florida has over 700 miles.” Grover said he suggested some formula based on miles of shoreline.
Each county also talked about how the media coverage was impacting tourism from Bay to Escambia counties. With no oil expected to hit area shores this upcoming weekend, the delegation stressed the need to advertise now to get visitors while the beaches are fine.
Grover told them this kind of advertising, more targeted than what Visit Florida is doing, would help mitigate loss for hotels and restaurants later.
Grover said, “It has to be specific to the Florida Gulf counties that had been effected by this environmental purgatory.”
Finally, Gordon Goodin brought up the need to involve social services, maybe through United Way, for individuals that experience severe traumatic effects from this.
Grover told me that the discussion was heated but not adversarial.
Grover said they got the following commitments out of BP:
-To look at an escrow like $1-billion one Miller has proposed with funding based on a more equitable formula than equal amounts for each state.
-To look at the need to assist the five westernmost counties in Florida with advertising while beaches area unaffected.
-To meet with the United Ways in each county to look at the need for social services for those most affected.
“It was a good start,” Grover said. “Let’s see if BP lives up to this commitment.”