In 2011, both chambers of Congress demanded that Gulf states receive the lion's share of Clean Water Act fines levied against BP in the wake of the 2010 Gulf oil disaster — potentially billions of dollars to pay for economic and environmental losses. The RESTORE Act united Democrats and Republicans in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
The bill's co-authors, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, and U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, fought successfully for its Senate passage last week by a vote of 74-22. The bill comes as a provision tacked onto the Senate's transportation bill, a $109 billion measure for highway projects.
Under the Clean Water Act, BP can be fined from $1,000 to $4,300 per barrel leaked, or up to $20 billion, of which 80 percent would be divided among Gulf states under the bill. The bill now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner might adopt a similar provision, with help from U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, who sponsored a bill that was nearly identical to its Senate counterpart last year.
Following the Senate bill's passage, Landrieu said "work needs to be done" as the measure is discussed in the House. U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, added, "I urge my colleagues in the House to support this bipartisan bill which would help the Gulf Coast recover from the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history." — Alex Woodward