(CNN) – Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Sunday that he is doing everything he can to be ready for the effects of the Gulf oil spill on his state’s shores – everything from deploying boom to opening lines of communication with the federal government to even preparing a cadre of lawyers to help Floridians with ANY economic claims against embattled energy giant BP.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Crist told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley that Florida is “as ready as we can be.” He quickly added, “We’ve done a lot in order to be ready.”
Crist said roughly 250,000 feet of boom has already been deployed throughout the Florida Panhandle and an equal amount of boom has been targeted at protecting bays and estuaries which Crist described as “so sensitive” to the unrefined crude that has been spewing from an out-of-control well in the Gulf of Mexico for the last six weeks.
Despite the media attention focused on Florida’s normally pristine beaches, the governor told Crowley that the beaches were actually easier to clean after the fact once they had been touched by oil than, for example, estuaries and marshes. Crist said Floridians had been “disappointed” by the recent arrival of tar balls, globs of oil and sand that are usually a precursor to larger amounts of oil making landfall, on Pensacola’s beaches. But he noted that clean-up crews had acted quickly to remove the early, small amounts of oil from the beaches.
“So, we’re just trying to do the very best we can with the resources we have,” he said.
Crist also said that thus far he has not had any trouble getting the help he needs from the Obama administration.
“I’ve been in direct contact with [Coast Guard] Adm. [Thad] Allen and he’s been very responsive to Florida,” the governor said. “Whenever we have made an ask, it has been answered. And we hope and pray that, that will continue to be the case.”
But Crist did not have words as kind for BP.
Crist said BP’s process for paying Floridians’ initial claims for their economic losses was “lacking.”
“I think they’re doing the best that they can but they can always do better. And we’re urging that they do better. We’re more than urging them. We’re demanding that they do better,” Crist told Crowley.
To that end, Crist said he and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum have asked two of the state’s former attorneys general to set up a task force of lawyers who can help Floridians in the longer term project of seeking additional compensation from BP.
“In the near term – in the short term, if you will – we want these claims to be responded to much more quickly,” Crist said.
He added, “We want them to answer those claims more rapidly because these people need help. And we have to be there to try to make them as whole as we can during this very difficult process.”