The third anniversary of the petroleum industry's worst-ever disaster was marked with a news conference in downtown St. Petersburg. Florida Senator Bill Nelson announced new legislation Friday that would remove the current $75-million cap on oil spill liabilities, and admitted he is in for a fight.
"The oil lobby is one of the most potent lobbies anywhere," Nelson said.
U.S. Representative Kathy Castor also attended, and noted the criticism of a national Oil Spill Commission. In a follow-up on how its recommendations have fared, "they gave the Congress a D," Castor said. "I think that's very generous because they have not responded to the recommendations in the Oil Spill Commission report."
The commission was formed after the Deepwater Horizon disaster that started April 20, 2010. Methane gas blew through safety valves nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico, exploding on the oil rig above, killing 11 workers.
Crude oil gushed from the sea floor for 87 days, spilling an estimated 210 million gallons before it could be capped. Millions of gallons of chemicals dumped on the gusher in an attempt to disperse the crude may have made matters worse.
Scores of marine researchers have been involved with assessing the damages for three years now.
"There's no doubt it's going to take us decades to comprehend the trauma that our gulf has suffered," the Mote Marine Laboratory's Robert Hueler predicted.
Congress did pass legislation that will direct 80 percent of any fines to research and restoration. The amount of those penalties have yet to be determined in court. However, the fines could reach $20-billion.
"There are plans and there are management plans in effect and all we need is funding," said David White of the National Wildlife Federation. "If we do this right, if we pick the right projects and invest in smart projects that will restore our coastal communities, we can do more for our economy than just about anything else I can think of."
The spilled oil did not reach Tampa Bay, but impacted that summer's tourist season. Further north, the crude has become a part of life.
"This photograph was taken one week ago today, April 12th in Elmer's Island, Louisiana," said Cathy Harrelson, displaying a poster showing two hands holding two dark, lumpy clumps. "These are tarballs."
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