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House Passes RESTORE Act to Help Gulf Coast

Press Release

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Gulf Coast states and the Gulf of Mexico achieved a major victory today when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the RESTORE Act, which directs 80 percent of the fines and penalties collected under the Clean Water Act directly to the recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor set this as a top priority for this congressional term following the BP oil disaster, which wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast about two years ago.

"The BP disaster caused substantial damage to our region's economy and environment. Recovery is underway, but long-term environmental and economic recovery is dependent on a guarantee that the fines collected be directed to the Gulf Coast rather than the general Treasury. This legislation ensures that our small-business owners, our fishermen, our tourism industry and others impacted by the disaster get the help they need.

"The Gulf of Mexico supports millions of jobs in the tourism, fishing, recreation and wildlife industries," Castor continued. "These jobs rely upon a healthy and resilient Gulf of Mexico. I have long said taxpayers should not be on the hook for one dime of recovery and research efforts. With this legislation today, we are holding BP and other culpable parties accountable."

Without Congressional action, the fines and penalties would be directed to the general Treasury. This legislation sends 80 percent of the money to the Gulf Coast for restoration and recovery. The maximum civil penalties under the Clean Water Act could range from $4.5 billion to $21 billion. The final amount will be based on the number of barrels of oil spilled and whether negligence is determined to have been a factor.

President Obama set the 80 percent target as a goal for Congress to pass. Castor co-chairs a new Gulf Coast Caucus, which was organized with other Gulf-state members to advocate for the 80 percent goal.

The legislation, which is included in the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, includes important provisions that can direct funds to research institutions that are already studying the environmental impact of the disaster so they can continue their work. The Florida Institute of Oceanography, based at the University of South Florida, can be a strong candidate to receive funds. The FIO is a consortium of scientists and researchers from across the state who have been studying the environmental and ecological impacts of the oil disaster.

"Sen. Bill Nelson and I worked hard to include an emphasis on scientific research in this legislation," Castor said. "Long-term environmental observation and research is critically important to assessing the impact of the disaster on the Gulf and to keeping our researchers on the job. Our researchers at the University of South Florida and other institutions across the state and entire Gulf Coast region are making important discoveries and ensuring the health of Florida's economy through a healthy environment. We need to keep directing investments to these research efforts at USF, in Florida and across the Gulf coast."


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