Sep 17 2010

Sen. Shelby to oil spill fund czar Feinberg: 'Alabama is at a critical juncture'

Mobile Press-Register

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, today sent a letter to BP oil spill fund chief Kenneth Feinberg, telling him that "Alabama is at a critical juncture" and imploring him to remember the needs of those in the state's tourism and seafood industries.

"Many may think this disaster is over. This is not the case," Shelby wrote. "Like many Alabamians, I remain extremely concerned regarding both the short- and long-term effects the oil will have on the Gulf Coast's economy and ecosystem."

Shelby said he remains concerned about possible future effects of the spill, as well as the near-term problems, including:

A nearly 50 percent drop in tourism-generated dollars and a substantial loss of jobs.

Tourism revenues lost to Alabama's coastal economies as a direct result of the oil spill are estimated at between $850 million and $1 billion.

In July, hotel room sales returned only $63.90 versus $150 the year before.

Condominium occupancy rates fell to roughly 44 percent versus nearly 72
percent in 2009.

Shelby went on to say that the federally-mandated fishery closures have "resulted in a significant loss of income for the entire seafood industry -- fishermen, shrimpers, bait & tackle shops, and processors -- as well as adversely affecting tourism."

Shelby did not make any specific requests of Feinberg. Rather, he told him simply that he hopes that under Feinberg's leadership the Gulf Coast Claims Facility "will uphold and follow through on its commitments to the people of Alabama."