U.S. Senators Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., today introduced legislation that calls for dedicating at least 80% of BP penalties paid under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to Gulf states to invest in the long-term health of the coastal ecosystem and its economies. Joining Sens. Landrieu and Shelby as original cosponsors of the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act of 2011 are Sens. David Vitter, R-La., Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who was instrumental in forging an agreement on the bill, has committed to taking up the bill in her committee as soon as possible.
The RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act of 2011 will establish the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund to be made up of 80% of all civil penalties paid by BP or any other responsible party in connection with the Deepwater Horizon spill.
"We are here today to tell the people of the Gulf Coast region that we are committed to addressing the devastating impacts of the BP oil spill and to restoring the natural resources that coastal communities depend on," Sen. Boxer said. "As Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I have supported this bipartisan effort to develop a compromise proposal that will ensure the long-term health of the Gulf Coast ecosystems and economies. I am pleased that these Gulf Coast Senators have come together today to introduce the RESTORE Act, and I will move it through my Committee as soon as possible."
"The Deepwater Horizon explosion was a tragedy that took the lives of 11 men and devastated an already fragile coastline," Sen. Landrieu said. "While there are many things that must be done to respond to that horrific incident, the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act of 2011 is one of the most important things that needs to be done. BP will have to pay a serious fine to the federal government. We believe that at least 80% of that fine should go to the area where the injury to get the taxpayers off the hook and put the polluters on the hook for picking up the tab. Today's bill is a testament to the commitment of this bipartisan group of senators to ensure the Gulf Coast thrives for decades to come. And special thanks goes to the hard work and support of Chair Boxer and her staff and her commitment to move this bill through her committee."
"The RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act of 2011 is good news for Alabama's environmental and economic recovery from the oil spill," Sen. Shelby said. "This legislation allows for great flexibility in the allocation of recovery funds to ensure that the penalties our state is owed are distributed in the best interest of Alabama's coastal communities. I am proud of the resiliency of Alabamians in the wake of the oil spill and will push for the enactment of the RESTORE Act so that we may continue towards a full recovery."
"We have a very strong bill with very strong support including the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee," Sen. Vitter said. "Louisiana and the Gulf Coast took a beating from the oil spill last summer, and the culprits - BP - are being held accountable. Our coastlines were the first line of defense against the oil spill as well as for tropical storms. It's extremely important to support the ongoing projects to build up our ecosystems and coastline."
"The Deepwater Horizon oil spill clobbered Alabama and other Gulf Coast states with a range of economic and environmental impacts," Sen. Sessions said. "A full recovery will take decades. I am proud of the work of the Gulf Coast delegation in the Senate to produce a good bill that will direct a substantial portion of the Clean Water Act fines to the environmental and economic restoration of the Gulf Coast, in line with the recommendations of the Mabus Report. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Chairman Boxer and Ranking Member Inhofe as we seek to move this bill through the Committee on Environment and Public Works and eventually to the floor of the U.S. Senate."
"The effects of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy still reverberate through Mississippi and other Gulf states," Sen. Cochran said. "This legislation would direct future BP fines to Gulf Coast states, providing the resources they need to continue the process of cleaning up the economic and environmental damage from that disaster."
"This bill will speed economic and environmental recovery to Gulf Coast communities following last year's oil spill," Sen. Wicker said. "Fines collected from BP under the Clean Water Act should be directed to the States that were impacted, and this bill accomplishes that goal. This represents a balanced approach by all Gulf State Senators to support economic and environmental restoration with flexibility for States to choose their own priorities."
"We badly need this investment in our Gulf Coast," Sen. Bill Nelson said. "And it makes sense, because that's where the BP oil spill painted beaches and wetlands black and messed up the fishing and tourism industries."
"Last year's Gulf oil spill devastated Florida's tourism, fisheries and other related industries, and this legislation represents an important step to restore the economies and ecosystems in the Gulf," Sen. Rubio said. "Redirecting the fine money paid by BP under the Clean Water Act is a logical policy that will help the states affected by this disaster continue rebuilding their businesses and lives."
"The damage to Texas was more economic, and not as environmental as other states," Sen. Hutchison said. "This bill gives states flexibility and I hope Texas uses its share of the funds to help make whole our communities, which have suffered economically."
The bill will do the following:
* Dedicate 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties charged to BP to the restoration of the Gulf Coast
* Provide needed resources to Gulf Coast States to start recovery immediately
* Establish a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and a Comprehensive Plan for the Gulf Coast
* Establish a Long Term Science and Fisheries Endowment and Gulf Coast Centers of Excellence
Last year, the Gulf Coast Restoration Task Force led by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus issued a report titled "America's Gulf Coast," for Congress to dedicate a significant amount of civil Clean Water Act penalties incurred by those responsible for the spill to the Gulf Coast. And, earlier this year, National Oil Spill Commission's report on the BP oil spill recommended that no less than 80% of the BP penalty money goes to Gulf Coast states for coastal and environmental restoration.
The Clean Water Act allows the Environmental Protection Agency to collect $1,100 per barrel of oil spilled, or $4,300 per barrel if there is a finding of gross negligence, from any party found responsible for an oil spill in federal waters. Based on the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, BP could face fines between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion. Under current law, this money would go to the U.S. Treasury and the Gulf Coast would get nothing.