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The Advocate - House to Address BP Fine Split

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Location: Washington, DC

Chances for Gulf Coast states, including Louisiana, to share in 80 percent of BP fine money got a boost Wednesday when legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.

A Senate committee has already approved similar legislation and supporters of the House measure believe they can get the backing of their chamber.

Under the Clean Water Act, BP can be fined from $1,000 to $4,300 per barrel for its leak last year after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The disaster, which killed 11 men, resulted in 4.9 million barrels leaking into the Gulf.

The fines could result in anywhere from $5 billion to more than $20 billion in penalties.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, introduced the House bill and is leading the chamber charge, saying that dedicating the penalty money is critical to restoring damage from the catastrophe.

"It's only fair that a lion's share of the money stays with the Gulf Coast states," Scalise said.

Under the House legislation, the fine money would be split into four pots.

The five Gulf Coast states, which also include Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Florida, would share in 35 percent of the money.

Another 30 percent of the funds would be used for the development and implementation of a comprehensive restoration plan created by a council with federal and state representatives.

Still another 30 percent of the money would be disbursed to the Gulf Coast states according to an impact driven formula and disbursed according to plans submitted and approved by the council.

The remaining 5 percent would be used to establish a long-term science and fisheries endowment and Gulf Centers of Excellence to advance research, science and technology in the Gulf. Entities created in the bill would sunset once all the funds are spent.

The Obama administration has already agreed that Gulf Coast states should receive fine money, though it has not specified how much. The legislation has been introduced now in the House and Senate. Chances of passing a bill to get to President Barack Obama's desk are greater, Scalise said.

The Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee recently approved the Senate version of the bill. The introduction of the House measure is critical, Scalise said.

"This is a historic day for the Gulf Coast and the United States," Scalise said.


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