Monday, July 19, 2010

BP presence creates false economy

The July 13, town hall meeting held by the City of Apalachicola to discuss their recently adopted Oil Spill protection strategy and to share other related information with the public turned from protection to economics.

Toward the end of the three hour long meeting, city officials heard from several business owners whose businesses have suffered from the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill although no oil has reached the shorelines of Apalachicola.

Representatives from the hotel, restaurant, and marine supply industries spoke about the impacts to their business and expressed concern for the future of Apalachicola.

The oil had not even began migrating beyond the site of the April 20 explosion, before national news coverage surrounding the spill caused an immediate decline in the sale of Gulf harvested seafood and visitors to the area at the beginning of the towns busiest season.

For generations the city has depended upon seafood and tourism to fuel its economy. The sudden decline in both started the local economy toward a descent that was certain to escalate into the closure of several businesses if the situation had lasted throughout the summer.

However, as the plume moved eastward, an incursion of BP contractors converged upon the city setting up a claims office, conducting hazwoper training, and laying out their booming plans and vessels of opportunity program helped stave off the beginning of a local economic downturn.

The contractor’s presence here although bittersweet gave the economy a much-needed boost by replacing the seafood lovers and beachgoers frighten away by news circulating the country concerning the Gulf oil spill. However, earlier this month when the contractors begin scaling back their operations, some local businesses once again found themselves hard pressed to make ends meet.

As a result, BP without hesitation or prodding should immediately provide both short and long-term financial support to those businesses affected whether directly or indirectly by this disaster.

A request made clear at the July 13 meeting when commissioners asked Lee McRae, BP Community Liaison for Franklin County to make advanced payments of $5,000, to local businesses to keep them afloat while the oil giant process their claims, a similar action authorized and taken by BP in Orange Beach, Alabama.

McRae told commissioners that she would present the request to her superiors and call the city office the next day with a response.

However, in an email message received July 18, McRae wrote, “We have had a functioning claims office in Apalachicola since May 19, and the best process to quickly reimburse people for their legitimate losses is to file a claim. This has been communicated in the local media and at multiple public meetings and town halls around the county since May.”

“My commitment in the meeting was to raise your concern and request to my leadership in Tallahassee and I have done that. I informed them of your particular request the day after the city meeting.”

In addition, the commission directed staff to research the magnitude of the impact that the oil spill has had directly and indirectly on the town, in terms of lost revenue and property value.

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