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St. Joe Company Sues Halliburton Over Oil Damage

Saying its stock has dropped 40 percent because of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Panhandle developer St. Joe Co. on Wednesday filed suit against Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. for its role in what is now considered the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

St. Joe, which owns 577,000 acres in Florida, filed suit in a Delaware court seeking damages as the paper company-turned-developer seeks to recover losses brought on by the threat of oil soaked beaches. About 70 percent of St. Joe’s Florida holdings lie within 15 miles of the Gulf of Mexico.

“We believe that Halliburton was grossly negligent and bears full responsibility for this tragic accident," William A. Brewer III, lead counsel for St. Joe, said in a statement. "We believe Halliburton's participation in the cementing process - and the company's willful disregard of important safety measures - make it liable for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and the catastrophic damages that it caused."

The lawsuit claims Halliburton, one of the world’s largest cementing companies, committed numerous errors when pouring the casing for the BP Deepwater Horizon well. Among a litany of complaints, the suit says Halliburton opted for a faster, less expensive procedure to finish its work and did not use enough centralizers to secure the work.

The company reported that the explosion took place 20 hours after it had finished its work on the Deepwater rig. Cement used in the procedure usually sets within 18 to 24 hours.

“Halliburton has not seen this lawsuit yet,” said spokeswoman Teresa Wong. “But from the information we have seen in the media so far, it appears to be without merit and we will vigorously defend it.

FEDS SAY MOST OF THE OIL HAS BEEN RECOVERED

Also on Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report saying 74 percent of the 4.9 million gallon Deepwater spill had evaporated, been collected or dispersed. The remaining 26 percent is is either on or just below the surface as residue and weathered tarballs, washed ashore or is buried in sand and sediments.

“Teams of scientists and experts have been carefully tracking the oil since day one of this spill, and based on the data from those efforts and their collective expertise, they have been able to provide these useful and educated estimates about the fate of the oil,” says Jane Lubchenco, a NOAA administrator. “Less oil on the surface does not mean that there isn’t oil still in the water column or that our beaches and marshes aren’t still at risk. Knowing generally what happened to the oil helps us better understand areas of risk and likely impacts.”

The estimates do not make assumptions on long-term impacts of oil on the Gulf, a process Lubchenco says will take time and continued monitoring and research.

In other news, BP officials said Wednesday their “top kill” operation seems to have plugged the well that was temporarily capped late last month. The procedure involves injecting drilling mud into the bore hole, using the weight of the mud to stop the leak. Cement is then typically added.

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