Before a crowd gathered at a downtown waterfront park Friday morning, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he wants to make oil companies pay for the economic and environmental consequences of offshore spills.
The Florida senator is cosponsoring a bill that he maintains would hold oil companies accountable for accidents similar to the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The bill would lift the $75 million limit on oil companies’ responsibility following an environmental disaster, Nelson said.
Researchers don’t know the long-term effects of major oil spills, the senator said. “We know that people and critters near shore have been harmed, but what about the critters down deep?”
This is the third time Nelson has pushed such legislation on Capitol Hill. “When you don’t succeed on everything, you try, you try again,” he said. “And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Nelson shared the podium with political officials including U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman, as well as tourism officials, researchers and environmental advocates.
Steve Murawski, a biologist with the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, said even though a consortium of groups have studied the impacts of oil and dispersants in the gulf since nearly the disaster’s outset, there is much more work to be done.
“This will not be the last oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or elsewhere,” he said. “This is a ticking time bomb.”
Saturday marks the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon rig’s explosion, which killed 11 workers. Hundreds of millions of gallons of oil shot out of an undersea well into the gulf, and millions of gallons of chemical dispersants were applied in an attempt to offset its effects.
The oil fouled 1,110 miles of beaches and marshes in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.