$300 million oil spill fund in peril

Posted on March 4, 2016 by Romi White

This year, the Florida Panhandle was anticipating $300 million in Oil Spill Economic Recovery Act funding. However, there is a move underway in the Florida legislature to not only stall the payout, but possibly reallocate those funds.
Around $1.5 billion was designated for Triumph Gulf Coast, a nonprofit created to manage the recovery funds for eight Panhandle counties impacted by the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, including Santa Rosa County.
The first payment of $300 million was expected this year with $100 million each subsequent year. But now the funds are being eyed for the state’s general fund use in 2017.
“The legislature’s actions by failing to fund for Triumph Gulf Coast should be taken as an affront by every resident in the Panhandle,” SRC Commission Chairman Lane Lynchard said.
Lynchard, who has led the county’s oil spill recovery efforts, said it is “shameful” the funds might be shifted to the state’s general revenue fund “where it will make no meaningful impact.”
“The oil spill happened in our front yard. The oil washed up on our beaches. Our local economy suffered, and our residents dealt with the constant dread that the next tide would bring disaster,” Lynchard said.
And it’s not the only change that could impact our area. State legislators decided stop funding Enterprise Florida incentives.
Santa Rosa County Economic Development Director Shannon Ogletree said that loss will make Florida less competitive for projects considering locating in states such as Texas, Alabama and Georgia.
“The loss of these funds will send a negative message to site selectors and companies on Florida’s competitiveness,” Ogletree said.
Chairman Lynchard agreed. “I think the action by the legislature on economic incentives sends the message that Florida is not to be taken seriously by major industries looking to relocate.”
“The dust has not yet settled on this year’s legislative session. We still have time to resolve this issue, and I will not believe all is lost while there are 10 days left before we adjourn. If not, I commit to you that we will have an open discussion across the Panhandle on what can be done to preserve these funds in the future,” stated Florida House District 3 Representative Doug Broxson.
“Florida is waiving the white flag when it comes to competing with other states. We will continue to lose out to Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and other states, not because our workforce can’t compete, but because the incentives these other states can offer are so important in deciding where to locate,” Lynchard said.