Interview with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Interview with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

By Campbell Brown - June 29, 2010

CAMPBELL BROWN: Now, that is the main entry from the Gulf into Pensacola bay and into Escambia Bay. Officials there are telling CNN they haven't seen anything like this before.

And it is in Pensacola where Governor Crist is joining me tonight.

Governor, appreciate your time tonight.

As we told people earlier, you had the vice president...

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (I), FLORIDA: Of course. Good to be with you, Campbell.

BROWN: You -- I mentioned you had the vice president's ear today. Give us your take on the administration's response. Are you satisfied with how they have been responding to your concerns and issues?

CRIST: Well, I was very pleased to have the vice president with us down here in Pensacola today.

And you mentioned at the outset one of the most important reasons why. The message that I was conveying was that we need more skimmers, so that we can get that stuff before it comes into the shore and stays off our beautiful beaches here in Pensacola.

That is the most important thing that we need to be doing. And it looks like we may be getting some of that red tape out of the way, so that we can protect our beautiful Florida in a better way.

BROWN: In an interview, Governor, yesterday, you said that the oil situation there on the beaches is more of a nuisance than a safety concern. Should people really feel safe to bring their families there?

CRIST: Well, what we do is we test continuously the water. And I can only speak for the waters off Florida.

And I think it is important that they monitor what the local health department has to say, whether it is here in Escambia County or Santa Rosa County next to us or whatever local authority it is, and really pay attention to those health departments, but we also have a role in that at the state level to make sure that the waters are safe.

And it is a day-by-day thing. I mean, so far, we haven't had to have people not come into the water because of a health concern. But what you just mentioned about what's coming into the pass, that may be of a concern.

So, I think it is important for all residents to pay attention to what the local health authorities are saying after the most recent testing that they have been able to acquire.

BROWN: But even up until this point -- and I know those beaches well. I brought my kids to Pensacola and to Perdido many, many times to play on the beach. And I'm reading today, over 90,000 pounds of tar ball oil material collected in the Pensacola area and Perdido Key State Park, the day before, 88,000 pounds. You know, we have seen the pictures.

I just can't imagine letting my kids run around in that. I mean, do you -- are you suggesting that families should be out there with their children?

CRIST: No, I'm suggesting that what families ought to do is listen to the health authorities.

You know, I'm not a scientist. Neither of us are. And so I think what's important is that people ought to listen to what health authorities say, whether it's at the local level in the county that may be affected or impacted adversely. You know, it is important to use your head, be smart and be logical.

And if the local authorities close the beaches, then that is a clear signal that you shouldn't be near them, and you ought to protect your children. BROWN: You, yourself, have expressed frustration with BP, I know. You have just gotten them, though, to send you some new funding, about a half a million dollars, to try to keep the oil away from the shores.

You mentioned the skimmers earlier. How do you want that money directed? What specifically is the most important thing you need in terms of your plan right now?

CRIST: Well, really, the most important thing are twofold. It is the skimmers that I mentioned earlier, but also boom. They sort of go hand in hand, if you will.

The boom can be utilized to protect the pass, like, you know, Pensacola Pass or at Perdido Key, wherever you might be talking about, and that can keep it from getting into the marshes, the estuaries, and even the more sensitive parts of Florida or the Gulf Coast, if you will.

The other thing, though, are the skimmers. And I was very encouraged, as I said earlier, by the conversation I had with the vice president today, the possibility of significant additional skimmers being able to come to the Gulf Coast and protect my beautiful Florida.

That's what it's all about. We want to stop it before it gets to these beautiful beaches. That is the best solution of all.

BROWN: I want to ask you. President Bill Clinton had this suggestion for how to deal with the ongoing leak that I just want you to hear. He said this yesterday at a forum in South Africa when he was asked about it. Listen for a second.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the best things that they have done is to deploy massive Naval and Coast Guard resources and finally start taking help from other countries.

But Unless we send the Nevada down deep to blow up the well and cover the leak with piles and piles and piles of debris, which may become necessary -- you don't have to use nuclear weapon, by the way. I have seen all that stuff. Just blow it up. Unless we're going to do that, we are on dependent on the technical expertise of these people from BP.


BROWN: So, I am not asking you to be a scientist or to evaluate this, but, just generally, what do you make of what the president said?

CRIST: Well, I think all of us are extremely frustrated by the fact that this thing is out there spewing, you know, gallon after gallon after gallon of this disgusting oil into the Gulf of Mexico every single day. As a Floridian, somebody who actually grew up here on the Gulf Coast in Saint Petersburg, near Tampa Bay, it drives me crazy. It breaks my heart and frankly it ticks me off. And, so, what I would want to see is, as soon as we can close that thing with a safe solution, that's exactly what we need to do.

You know, as you say, I'm not a geologist, I'm not a scientist, so I don't know about this blow-up option, if you will, but I think whatever we can do in a timely fashion that would be safe that shuts that thing down, that is exactly what we need to be doing.

BROWN: I finally want to ask you about the potential -- as you know, that area where you are standing right now has been hard-hit by hurricanes in the past. It looks like you may dodge a bullet on this storm, but this has got to have people down there just on pins and needles, the thought of the next storm.

We are just at the beginning of hurricane season. How do you prepare for it? How worried are you?

CRIST: Well, we are always concerned.

You know, in Florida, we have had a lot of hurricanes a number of years ago, but we handled them very well. The added dimension, obviously, and the distinction that we are facing today is we have got a Gulf of Mexico that is full of oil. So, you know, our hope and our prayer is that we don't have a mixture of hurricane with oil that could potentially damage the beautiful beaches of Florida.

But if we do, we are prepared for it. Our emergency operation center is prepared for that sort of double duty, if you will. Dave Halstead does a great job covering that for Florida. And if we have to face it, we will. We are a resilient people. We are a tough bunch. We hope that doesn't happen, but we have got to be prepared for the worst, but pray and hope for the best.

BROWN: Governor Crist, Governor Charlie Crist, appreciate you taking the time to talk to us tonight, given all that is going on. Thanks a lot.

CRIST: My pleasure, Campbell. Good to be with you. Thank you.


Campbell Brown

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