MIAMI (AP) - Florida has joined a multistate lawsuit stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, seeking to hold British oil company BP accountable for damage to the state's natural resources.
The complaint was filed Wednesday in Panama City federal court by the state's secretary of environmental protection and the head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It is separate from a lawsuit Florida's attorney general filed against BP last year over economic losses related to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
"It was the right time to hold BP accountable for environmental harm to our state and so that's why we joined in the lawsuit," Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday.
Along with BP, the new complaint lists minority partner Anadarko and rig owner Transcocean as defendants responsible for environmental harm caused by the spill.
"The Deepwater Horizon spill caused, is causing and will continue to cause extensive damages to the state of Florida's natural resources," the complaint states. Those resources include "Florida's sandy beaches, salt marshes, wetlands, estuaries, submerged aquatic vegetation, deepwater communities and coral reefs," as well as wildlife such as manatees, oysters, sea turtles, birds and fish.
The April 2010 blowout of BP's Macondo well triggered an explosion that killed 11 workers on the rig and, for weeks, spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
"I am proud of the work being done to restore Florida's Gulf Coast and provide additional recreational and environmental opportunities to offset the losses suffered as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," said Herschel Vinyard, secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection. "We will now focus on holding the responsible parties accountable for the oil spill."
BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said the company is reviewing Florida's lawsuit and continues to evaluate potential environmental damages caused by the spill.
"While the natural resource damage assessment process is still ongoing, nearly four years after the Deepwater Horizon accident, preliminary analysis of available data collected indicates that the worst predictions about its environmental impact have not come to pass. With the help of the cleanup efforts, early restoration projects, and natural recovery processes, the Gulf is returning to its baseline condition, which is the condition it would be in if the accident had not occurred," Morrell said in a statement emailed Thursday to The Associated Press.
The multistate lawsuit currently is pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Florida's complaint did not give a specific dollar amount for the damages it's seeking, but it does ask the court to declare "that the defendants are responsible and strictly liable for past and/or future removal costs and natural resource damages, including the loss of recreational and other uses of those resources."
BP has spent more than $26 billion on Gulf restoration efforts, including more than $14 billion on response and cleanup, Morrell said.
Associated Press writer Gary Fineout contributed to this report from Tallahassee, Fla.
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