Only days before the three-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, the Bay County Commission reached an agreement with British Petroleum (BP) to settle economic losses associated with the incident.
This settlement, in excess of $15 million, represents the largest economic loss claim paid by BP to a local government and serves to compensate Bay County and the Bay County Tourist Development Council (TDC) for past, present and future lost revenues associated with the April 20, 2010 spill. While the Commission and TDC considered litigation, ongoing settlement negotiations with BP eventually led to an agreement.
"We are proud to have reached this settlement on behalf the people of Bay County, who unfairly suffered as a result of the Gulf Oil Spill," said Bay County Commission Chairman George Gainer. "As we mark the anniversary of this tragic event, it is right that Bay County can now move beyond it and use this money to support greater growth and prosperity."
Bay County's portion of the claim amounted to $9.7 million. In determining the claim amount, the county considered the oil spill's impact on a variety of revenue streams, including solid waste tipping fees, specialty waste fees, electricity sales, water utility fees, communications services taxes, vessel registration fees and pier fees.
The Bay County and TDC claims were developed with the best experts in anticipation of litigation and presented to BP for consideration. Providing BP with the information they needed to properly evaluate the claims enabled collaboration and ultimately a fair resolution. BP recognized that a one-size approach does not necessarily fit all; Bay County's damages were unique and required a unique solution.
In 2011, the TDC received an interim claim of $2.5 million from BP, which was used to develop the Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater. This final settlement would add an additional $5.6 million to the TDC's coffers.
"The TDC is setting a precedent to say that we did it right and that they (BP) made the offer in good faith," Panama City Beach Mayor Gayle Oberst said.
The settlement covers only economic damages and does not release BP from any current or future response obligations or from any natural resource damages. These settlements, combined totaling almost $18 million, were obtained by a legal team led by Nix Patterson and Roach, LLP, Bay County law firms Harrison Sale McCloy and Harrison Rivard Duncan & Buzzett, as well as the Tampa-based law firm of Fowler White.