Not one drop from the BP oil spill touched local beaches, but the city of St. Pete Beach is going after the giant, filing a lawsuit that is a first of its kind.
St. Pete Beach is the first municipality in the Tampa Bay area to take the oil giant to court, and city officials anticipate a long process.
"Well, clearly, even though we didn't have any oil directly on the beach, we were impacted as a community," City manager Mike Bonfield said Thursday morning. "We're heavily tourism based. Many of our properties, our hotels, our restaurants suffered because of the bad publicity worldwide. We are a worldwide destination."
Bonfield said the city has a good case. Whether or not any oil actually washed ashore is beside the point, he said, what matters is that visitors thought it had. And that's why they're going after BP.
The city has hired a Danbury, Conn., law firm to handle the legal battle.
There's no specific dollar amount, but St. Pete beach wants BP to compensate them for all the money lost after the Deepwater Horizon Spill back in April 2010.
"We've asked our attorneys to review our financial records – parking revenues, utility taxes, business taxes, as well as general redevelopment opportunities that were lost – and identify those damages," Bonfield said. "What we hope is that the money go back toward redevelopment efforts for the city – things like beautification, public parking, beach access, those kinds of things."
This lawsuit would not cover any local businesses. It is a lawsuit filed by the municipality, Bonfield said.
Tourism dollars aren't the only loss the city is claiming. City officials say they're willing to go as far as they need to get back all the revenue lost as a result of the spill.
Bonfield also said other local communities are exploring legal action, but he did not specify.
"I would assume this will take some time," he said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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