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Saturday August 23rd 2014

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The Buzz 4/5/12

OIL MONEY The RESTORE Act is adrift again. While lawmakers had attached the act to a failed transportation bill, the House last week decided to pass a temporary transportation bill sans RESTORE.

Introduced last year, the act—the Resources Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy of the Gulf Coast Act of 2011—was drafted in an effort to direct fine money resulting from BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill directly to the Gulf Coast. The RESTORE Act could possibly be added when lawmakers take up a more permanent transportation bill.

“The house passed a ‘Clean’ 90-day short term transportation extension, which means it had no ‘riders’ such as the Restore Act,” Dan McFaul, chief of staff for Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) explained in an email.

While the Senate has already passed the RESTORE Act, the House has yet to manage the task. The act was originally attached to a doomed-from-the-start transportation bill that aimed to open up unprecedented amounts of the country—offshore and inland—to energy exploration. The Gulf of Mexico—where the spill spurring RESTORE occurred—would have seen a considerable increase in offshore oil and natural gas drilling activity.

Although Miller was active in getting RESTORE attached to the former house bill, he ultimately voted against the transportation bill. The bill would have allowed drilling only a few miles from Pensacola Beach, Fla.
McFaul said that RESTORE may still be realized.

“The bill passed yesterday in the House is simply a short-term extension of the current Transportation authorization,” Miller’s chief reported. “Congress will still have to pass a longer term measure and we will continue to work to make sure the bill retains the RESTORE Act provisions, which have already passed both bodies as part of their reauthorization proposals.”

APPEAL GOES UP IN SMOKE The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to hear an appeal by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in the Pensacola, Fla. case in which the company was ordered in 2009 to pay $28.3 million to Mathilde Martin.

Martin’s husband, Benny, died of lung cancer after decades of smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes. The jury in the trial had found that R.J. Reynolds was 66 percent responsible for his death and that Martin, who started smoking in the 1940s, before cigarette packages had health warnings, was 34 percent responsible.

Martin was represented by the firm of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty and Proctor.

DOLPHINS RETURNING TO BAYOU? It’s not something you see everyday. Pensacola City Councilman Larry B. Johnson had never seen it before.

“I’ve lived on Bayou Texar since 1989,” the city councilman said. “Since I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen dolphins in Bayou Texar.”

Johnson was visiting Bayview Park in late March when he spotted a pair of dolphins swimming in the bayou. He backs up his sighting with a witness:  Amy Baldwin Moss, an ecosystem restoration manager with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Johnson and Moss were at the bayou shoreline discussing upcoming restoration efforts. The DEP agent said that dolphins have not been regular residents in Bayou Texar in recent years.

“Not in my understanding,” Moss said. “Not in the last several decades, due to water quality.”

Both Johnson and Moss agree that seeing dolphins in the bayou is a good sign. Moss said that the dolphins were probably coming into Bayou Texar to feed, which would indicate a fish presence, which would indicate improving water quality.

“It’s something that certainly goes a long way to show there’s a food source in the bayou,” Moss said.