State panel wants answers from BP on $20-billion escrow

Members of an oil spill task force appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist grilled a BP representative Monday about how claims would be paid from the $20 billion escrow account established by the company.

BP reached an agreement with President Barack Obama in June to establish the account to pay claims arising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The company announced Monday that it had formally established the account and made a $3 billion initial deposit into it. Associate U.S. Attorney General Tom Perrelli said Monday the company still needs to ensure that necessary funds will be available if something happens to the BP subsidiary that established the trust fund.

Members of the BP Claims Process Working Group of the Oil Spill Economic Recovery Task Force echoed concerns of speakers that local governments and commercial fishermen along with hotel and restaurant workers affected by the spill would have to compete for money from the fund.

Florida also may find itself competing against Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states for a share of the $20 billion, said Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee.

BP Deputy Incident Commander Mary Shafer-Maliki said she needs find out if the $20 billion will provide only for private sector claims or if it will also pay for the government oil spill response costs. She also said the $20 billion isn’t a limit of how much the company will pay — just an initial deposit.

But Lawson said Florida needs to know how much money could be set aside for Florida. “I would like to see Florida get its fair share of the $20 billion,” he said.

Monroe County Commissioner Mario Di Gennaro said the panel wants answers from BP to questions that have been asked at recent meetings. “We want to have solid answers — yes or no, very cut and dry,” he said. “Not, ‘We’re still working on it’ and so forth.’ “

(Story provided by the Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting