Panama City Beach Sues for Oil Spill


     PANAMA CITY, Fla. (CN) - Panama City Beach has joined the long list of plaintiffs suing the owners and operators of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform. The city says its "population of visitors far exceeds the number of its local residents" in an average year, and that the oil spill devastated its tax base.
     Panama City Beach sued Transocean, its subsidiary Triton Asset Leasing, Halliburton and Cameron International Corp. for nuisance, trespass, gross negligence, liability for abnormally dangerous activity, and environmental damages.
     The city in the Florida Panhandle also has a claim pending with BP, under the Oil Pollution Liability and Compensation Act.
     "This action arises out of economic losses suffered by Panama City Beach as a direct and proximate result of the release of millions of gallons of hydrocarbons into the Gulf of Mexico," the complaint states.
     "The hydrocarbons released from the Macondo well impacted the coastal areas of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida and have caused and continue to cause massive damage to the Gulf of Mexico and coastal environments."
     The city says, "On an annual basis, PCB's population of visitors far exceeds the number of its local residents. Tourism is and was at all material times the primary industry located within PCB's jurisdiction."
     Panama City Beach is "prohibited by its charter from levying any ad valorem tax and is, therefore, dependent upon the collection of excise taxes and enterprise fund receipts to provide essential and desired public services," the city says.
     "To date, the Macondo well has been capped to prevent the continued flow of hydrocarbons into the Gulf of Mexico. However, the hydrocarbons that escaped prior to the well's capping made landfall along the Gulf coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and much of it remains in the Gulf of Mexico and on the seafloor. ...
     "The escaped hydrocarbons have caused, and will continue in the future to cause, a dangerous and harmful environmental contamination of the coastline, marine, and estuarine systems of the Gulf of Mexico, substantially damaging the Gulf of Mexico's natural resources.
     "The pristine nature of the Gulf of Mexico and its surrounding marine and estuarine environments attracts numerous patrons, tourists, and visitors to PCB; however, the release of hydrocarbons has tainted the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding coastal, marine, and estuarine environments, thereby causing many of the would-be patrons, tourists, and visitors to travel to and engage in commercial activities in other, less Gulf-oriented locales, if at all. ...
     "As the contamination of the Gulf of Mexico persists, PCB will suffer further lost revenues in the future and suffer from the diminution of PCB's property values.
     "There are many other potential effects from the released hydrocarbons that have not yet become known, PCB reserves the right to amend this complaint once additional information becomes available."
     In addition to other violations, the city seeks damages under the Florida Water Quality Act. Its lead counsel is Carl Nelson with Fowler White & Boggs of Tampa.