Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Assistant Republican Whip and Mississippi's fourth congressional representative, announced today that the House of Representatives voted to pass the Surface Transportation Extension Act, Part II, by a vote of 293-127. The bill included language to set up the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, and sets aside 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines paid out as a result of the BP oil spill.
"As we approach the second anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill, I'm pleased to report the RESTORE Act is steadily making its way to the president's desk," Palazzo stated. "This legislation is what the Gulf Coast needs to bring environmental and economic restoration full circle."
The transportation extension includes identical language to an amendment from energy legislation that passed the House in February 2012. That vote represented the first time either the House or Senate voted to bring oil spill fines back to the Gulf Coast states. Since that time, the Senate has included its own version of the RESTORE Act with a longer-term transportation extension package. Today's vote allows the two chambers to consider the RESTORE Act as part of the final transportation package in conference committee.
RESTORE Act language in both the House and Senate versions sets up the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund for the five Gulf Coast states (Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Florida), and sets aside 80% percent of the Clean Water Act fines for that fund. The goal of the bill is to provide for greater local input and control in the recovery decision-making process. Palazzo was one of 24 original cosponsors of House legislation first introduced in October 2011.
In past months, public support has grown for the bipartisan effort, with advocates including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Environmental Defense Fund.
In a floor speech on Wednesday, Palazzo encouraged fellow lawmakers to pause to remember the two-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and vote in favor of the bill to "show support to all those affected by the single largest manmade disaster in our history.
"Restoring and replenishing the Gulf Coast is more than just a responsible decision; it is the right thing to do."