Gov. Rick Scott's two-day Panhandle appreciation tour -- meant to highlight thriving businesses and clean beaches a year after the oil spill -- is a wrap.
Scott spent five hours this morning doing satellite interviews with TV stations across the country about Florida's recovery. He met up with more reporters at the Lucky Snapper in Destin, where he nibbled on a plate of locally caught copia, greens and black eyed peas with the restaurant owner, Destin Mayor Sam Seever and a couple tourism officials. He mostly chit-chatted about his experiences in office so far, touching on how much his wife Ann likes her role as the state's first lady and bemoaning how long it takes to get anything done in Tallahassee.
He told reporters in a brief gaggle after lunch that he has not finished reviewing changes to the oil spill claims process overseen by D.C. attorney Ken Feinberg. He said he met with Feinberg on Thursday during a visit to D.C. to hear how the adjustments were going, but wants to get more feedback before commenting on Feinberg's efforts to make the process more transparent and efficient.
"My experience is if we sit down and get some specific ideas about how he can improve the process, he'll be receptive," he said. "He doesn't want pressure from either the attorney general or me."
The tour continued about an hour later in Pensacola Beach. There Scott met with Pensacola officials at a brief roundtable at the Holiday Day Inn Beach Resort Hotel and took a walk on the beach. He wore dress pants, a light jacket and his signature black leather boots.
“It’s not in our best interest to be involved in somebody else’s litigation,” he said.
Scott was among several speakers who talked about gains the state has made since the spill. Tourism in Pensacola is actually higher compared to most years, said Ed Schroeder, director of Visit Pensacola. He credited increased tourists to BP marketing money and worldwide exposure of the city.
Still, an Escambia County senior scientist cautioned that concerns remain. Submerged oil mats exist within the beach's first and second sandbars, sending tar balls onshore after thunderstorms, said Chips Kirschenfeld, the county's water quality and land management division manager. BP may have cleaned up the beach, but that oil needs to be removed from the ocean.
"(Submerged oil mats) weren't here before the oil spill and they don’t need to remain here after the oil spill," he said.