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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gulf senators: Send BP dollars to the coast

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 5:54 PM

A bipartisan group in the Senate today called for Clean Water Act fines for last year's oil disaster be distributed among Gulf Coast states. The RESTORE Act, they proposed, would set up a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, backed by 80 percent of the penalties paid by BP and other responsible parties in the oil disaster.

According to Sen. Mary Landrieu and Sen. David Vitter, both co-sponsors, 35 percent of the funds would be shared across the states (and specific to "restore our ecosystem and support our travel, tourism and seafood industries that were devastated by the spill"), while 60 percent goes to a "Federal-State Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council." The remaining 5 percent would set up a Science and Technology program through Centers of Excellence focusing on coastal restoration, fisheries, offshore energy research and development, commercial development, and "port, harbor, and waterway construction and maintenance."

The current provision would distribute — ahem — 100 percent of fines to the feds, for future oil spill mitigation.

Not only is the RESTORE Act a massive bipartisan, multi-state effort, it also was a "duh" recommendation from the National Oil Spill Commission, which determined yes, in addition to the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, the Gulf obviously, and deservedly, benefits from the fines. (The several billions of dollars BP would likely have to pay wouldn't make much of a dent in the gazillion-dollar national deficit, anyway.) Their conclusion:

Congress—recognizing that dedicated, sustained funding is necessary to accomplish long-term Gulf of Mexico ecosystem restoration—should direct 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties imposed for the spill to support implementation of a region-wide restoration strategy. Directing such payments to the Gulf could, for the next 10 years, provide significant funding.

In a statement, Emily Woglom, director of government relations with the Ocean Conservancy, applauded the bill's endowment for a long-term Gulf research program, saying, "This is simply about fairness for the Gulf."

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