Tempers flare at City Council

The Pensacola City Council cut off BP Civic Affairs Director Liz Castro three pages into her PowerPoint presentation after the community liaison failed to answer simple question about the boom decontamination operation BP wants to establish at Pensacola Shipyards on Bayou Chico.

Councilman Larry Johnson led the charge with when he asked: Whether DEP had permitted the operations yet? How does BP plan to keep the oil out of our waters? How can we assured no oil will get into surface or ground waters?

Castro didn’t know the answer about the permit and said she would have to look up BP procedures and processes before she could answer the other questions.

Councilwoman Mack challenged Castro as to whether she even be addressing the council. She replied that her role was to take their questions to the technical experts and bring answers back to the council. She tried to deflect the anger and frustrations hurled at her by inviting the council to tour the staging facility. Of course, such a tour would be away from the media and wouldn’t be part of any public record.

Councilman Sam Hall followed Johnson and Mack, “How can BP send someone so poorly prepared? BP is not taking this council seriously. I am very, very disappointed. This is the largest man-made environmental disaster in world history.”

Castro responded, “Our operations people are busy with the staging area. I can go to them for you.”

Councilwoman Diane Mack stated that she was offended and moved that the BP presentation be suspended until Castro can bring people before the council that can answer its questions.

Mayor Wiggins tried to get the council to let Castro finish her presentation, but they weren’t interested. Hall left the council chambers and wouldn’t listen any more.

Johnson led the charge saying, “I don’t want this in our community.” He instructed Castro to invite BP CEO Tony Hayward to come to the Thursday meeting. “He can fly in his G-5 and be here. I want a record what is said.”

As Wiggins saw the council wasn’t buying what Castro was selling, the mayor stopped the presentation, instructed Castro to give the city clerk a copy of it and asked the council members to write up their questions for the BP officials.

Castro didn’t go down without a fight. She said that BP would be in Pensacola for as long as it takes. Castro said the BP has paid out $1.7 million in claims in Florida. She tried to read another prepared statement as to how those checks had been handed delivered to workers, shrimpers…but she was caught off by council members who wanted to know how much had been paid out in the City of Pensacola and Escambia County.

“I will have to look it up,” said Castro as she closed her laptop.