Holder Didn't Invite Florida Attorney General to Oil Spill Meeting

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Attorney General Bill McCollum wasn't on the invitation list for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's meeting Tuesday with Gulf state attorneys generals and U.S. attorneys after his tour of areas affected by the massive Gulf oil spill.

McCollum's office didn't even know about the meeting in New Orleans until a reporter e-mailed a Justice Department press release to his spokeswoman, Sandi Copes, Monday evening. McCollum's staff spent Monday morning trying to reach the Justice Department for an explanation.

The Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama attorneys general and U.S. attorneys from those areas were meeting with Holder after his visit to the coast.

Holder said Tuesday that federal authorities have opened criminal and civil investigations into the nation's worst oil spill, though he would not specify the companies or individuals that might be targeted.

The meeting with the attorneys general was the first in a series that Holder wants to schedule. He wanted to meet first with the states most immediately affected by the uncontrolled spill caused by the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Justice Department spokeswoman Hannah August said.

Florida's coast is oil free so far, but the threat of oil landing there has caused a slowdown in tourism that's hurt businesses along Florida's Gulf coast.

"Recognizing the risk to Florida, we have reached out to the attorney general to schedule subsequent meetings," August said in an e-mail.

McCollum said he found Florida's exclusion from the meeting "concerning."

"I am disappointed the president and his attorney general didn't appear to see the Deepwater Horizon incident as a severe threat to Florida's economy and environment, even though according to the latest tracking reports, the oil spill could likely impact our coast within days," McCollum said in a statement released by his office.

McCollum had previously expressed concerns that the hurricane season, which began Tuesday, could spread oil further around the Gulf and deeper inland. He has also criticized President Barack Obama's administration for not doing enough to try to get the ongoing spill contained.

Copes said McCollum had a doctor's appointment and other personal business Tuesday, but he would have made every effort to participate.

"This is a disaster of unprecedented proportions and the general would have wanted to be part of any meeting that would have benefited Floridians," Copes said.