Castor hears from environmentalists, local businesses on spill

06/03/10 Kate Bradshaw
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As oil is reportedly starting to wash up in Pensacola and even the Keys, Tampa Bay’s beaches are also bracing for a blow. Today U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor met with local leaders who are already feeling the effects of the disaster in the Gulf. At the meeting, hoteliers, environmentalists, and other stakeholders called for a multifaceted approach lessening the effects of the oil – and holding BP accountable.

Take an evening jog in the coastal town Treasure Island, say from Sunset Beach to John’s Pass. Along the way you’ll see pelicans- oil free, tiny purple shells lining the shore – also sans oil, and a bold blue expanse of saltwater – with no oil or tarballs to speak of. But tell that to someone in Germany who could just as well book a trip in Cabo, says Sirata Beach resort president Greg Nicklaus.

Nicklaus says he’s already filed a claim to recoup some of the lost revenue due to impressions all of Florida’s beaches are oiled. Therein, says Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce President Robin Grabowski, lies the problem.

A drop in tourism obviously also hurts fisherman, who run sell their catch to local markets and charter fishing trips. But with thirty-seven percent of the Gulf closed off to fishing, Tampa Bay area fishermen and women are feeling the burn. Travis Palladeno runs a fishing boat in Madeira Beach. He’s a commercial fisherman who relies heavily on dollars from running a charter boat.

He said so far he’s had to cancel sixty charter trips.

Palladeno says he thinks the government is shutting down fisheries arbitrarily, and he’d like to see better research.

Representatives from local environmental groups also had concerns about the research. Michelle Simoneau of Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, one of the response centers for oiled birds, told Castor she wanted to know more about chemical oil dispersants.

The wide-ranging discussion went well beyond the question of how to tackle the disaster’s economic and ecological short-term effects in Tampa Bay. They also talked about moving toward clean energy. US Representative Kathy Castor said she wants to incentivize clean energy exploration on the part of power companies.

Darden Rice of the Gulf Restoration Network said one of the major roadblocks in that respect with that is the clout of industry lobbyists.

Castor said she agreed, and hopes to tackle that in the future. She also stressed the need to hold BP accountable and financially responsible for scientific research, cleanup, lost wages, and other costs associated with the disaster. She said meetings like this are vital in assessing such needs.

Castor also wrote a letter to BP America head Lamar Mackay requesting $100 million in funding for a Florida’s Oil Spill Academic Task Force, a team of state university researchers charged with assessing numerous aspects of the worst oil spill that has ever happened in U.S. waters.

Today BP officials announced they’ve managed to cut a pipe that’s been gushing oil into the Gulf. But the cut is irregular, which means that capping the well may prove difficult.

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