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McCollum: State Would Back Federal Charges Against BP

The state would be prepared to join any action – including criminal charges - needed to ensure that BP takes full financial responsibility for the effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Attorney General Bill McCollum said Monday during a tour of affected areas.

“If federal charges are filed I can assure you that we will join the federal government in bringing them,” McCollum said during a stop in Pensacola Beach.

But of more immediate importance is easing bureaucratic red tape that seems to be making it harder for local officials to prepare for and deal with the effects of the spill, McCollum said.

Among his biggest frustrations is the disaster’s command structure that routes all decisions through a central command in Mobile, Ala. Such a bureaucratic bottleneck is keeping needed assets from the field. BP is driving the response – and blocking some efforts, particularly by volunteers, to clean up. One concern is liability, but it’s slowing down the response, McCollum and other officials said.

“Why don’t we have activity here in real serious way?” McCollum asked. “Why isn’t the Coast Guard being given some authority to make on-site decisions here?”

McCollum said he was angered by the company’s apparent unwillingness so far to use volunteers or innovative techniques and products to combat the spill while spending hefty sums to protect its image.

“BP has just spent $50 million on national PR advertising to make their company look good,” McCollum said. “I know they are paying all their claims, but they could certainly be spending that $50 million on some of this experimental technology.”

Escambia County Commission Chairman Grover Robinson told reporters that local residents were prepared to help clean up – and in some cases had good ideas – or were asking how they could help, but weren’t getting any response from BP.

Local officials and McCollum have also decried how long it has taken to get certain equipment, such as skimmer boats, in place.

The Deepwater Horizon well continues to leak more than 12,000 barrels a day, according to the Coast Guard, despite a containment cap.
The spill has become the dominant feature of Florida government and politics, despite the fact that for the most part, little oil has come to state shores so far.

Gov. Charlie Crist visited Monday with tourism industry officials and seafood workers in the Tampa Bay area, and McCollum and other Cabinet members said they plan to grill a BP official at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting on the company’s efforts to pay claims to those impacted by the spill.

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