One year ago today, an explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed eleven workers and started one of the worst environmental disasters in American history. By the time the leak was stopped in July 2010, the spill had released 4,900,000 barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico – not only destroying coastline and wildlife, but entire livelihoods as well.
But despite the thousands of jobs lost and the billions in property damage inflicted on Florida families, Governor Rick Scott has announced that Florida will not join the lawsuit against the oil rig owner Transocean, opting instead for a negotiation.
Quick legal primer: Rick Scott says foregoing the multistate lawsuit against Transocean doesn’t mean Florida can’t file a separate claim at a later date. However, going alone rather than joining the group removes significant leverage against the BP, Transocean, and the other corporate plaintiffs, according to Pensacola attorney Brian Barr. “I hope he’s right and can get what the state of Florida deserves,” Barr told the Pensacola News-Journal, “But in my experience, in doing this kind of work, it doesn’t really work that way, especially if you’ve made it public that you don’t want to use one of your biggest leverage points.”
What’s going through Governor Scott’s head? Why is he balking at the chance to get back what Florida taxpayers deserve?
The editorial board of the Pensacola News-Journal doesn’t know the answer – they call joining the lawsuit a “no-brainer.” “While it ought to be inconceivable to worry that the state’s governor is more sympathetic to the interests of the corporations responsible for the oil spill than to the interests of the state residents who were its victims, that’s not a given in Scott’s case,” they write.
In addition, this is not a moment in Florida’s history that calls for leniency toward corporations. PNJ writes:
Florida remains saddled with a long list of problems caused by corporations acting solely in their own interests. Whether it is pollution from stormwater runoff or industrial waste, an Everglades close to collapse, a tax system that goes easy on business but harder on middle- and lower-income residents, higher local taxes needed to pay for extending infrastructure to serve urban sprawl, flooding from poorly planned development and even the ongoing hurricane insurance crisis, Florida residents have had to absorb the impact of policies that favor companies over people.
He takes a hard line with union pensions and the unemployed, but when it comes to the Big Oil companies that wrecked entire Florida industries, Rick Scott employs nonchalance and a soft touch. It’s backwards. It’s disgusting. I only hope that, unlike the oil spill, the tragedy of Rick Scott can be stopped before it becomes irreversible.