The U.S. Senate today passed a transportation bill that included legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La, to require 80 percent of BP penalties paid under the Clean Water Act to be directed to Gulf states to restore coastal ecosystems and rebuild local economies damaged by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil Spill. The RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act was attached last week as an amendment to the Senate transportation bill, which was approved today by a 74 -- 22 vote. The transportation bill must now be considered by the House before it is signed into law by the President. View Sen. Landrieu's floor speech, which she gave shortly after the Senate passed the RESTORE Act.
"My colleagues and I are so proud to have passed the RESTORE Act, which will not add to the deficit, but will rather apply fine money that will be levied very soon in the courts against BP, and it will redirect this money back to the Gulf Coast -- the states and communities that suffered the damage," Sen. Landrieu said. "You do not get a Senate vote like we did without major help. We received 76 votes for our bill, and I am humbled to say it was the result of the work of many fine organizations. I was proud to lead this effort with Senator Richard Shelby from Alabama, and I hope the House will accept and pass today's transportation bill, sending it and the RESTORE Act to the President's desk to be signed into law."
See a list of the many organizations that support the RESTORE Act.
Sen. Landrieu and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., introduced the RESTORE Act in July 2011. Joining them as original cosponsors of the legislation were 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. A RESTORE Act amendment, offered by Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., passed the House in February.
The legislation 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 and flexibility to Gulf Coast states to start economic and ecological recovery immediately.
* Establish a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and a Comprehensive Plan for the Gulf Coast focused on ecosystem and coastal restoration.
* Establish a Long-term Science and Fisheries Endowment and Gulf Coast Centers for Excellence.
The offset that was included in the amendment generates a total of approximately $3.6 billion, providing $1.4 billion to pay for the RESTORE Act, as well as $1.4 billion for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which funds parks, bike trails, green space and outdoor recreation areas in all 50 states. The funding for the LWCF is separate from the BP penalties.
Last year, the National Oil Spill Commission's report on the BP oil spill recommended that no less than 80 percent of the BP penalty money go to Gulf Coast states for coastal and environmental restoration. And in 2010, 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.
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 in 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 General Treasury to be spent for purposes unaffiliated with the spill.