Letter to President Obama

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) today was joined by his fellow RESTORE Act co-author, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), in sending a letter to President Barack Obama unambiguously reaffirming Congressional intent in crafting the law.

"As you will recall, the RESTORE Act passed with broad bipartisan support, clearly illustrating the will of Congress--and the millions of Gulf Coast residents we represent--that the significant Clean Water Act penalties owed should be directed toward the Gulf's ecological and economic recovery under the local input and control guidelines established by the law," wrote Shelby and Landrieu. "Circumventing the will of Congress by shortchanging the RESTORE Act is wholly unacceptable to us. We urge you to reject such an approach."

The Senators' letter comes on the heels of a recent media account in the Mobile Press-Register, which indicated that Obama administration officials have been discussing with BP a potential settlement that would place greater authority over the fine money in the hands of the federal bureaucrats through the Natural Resources Damages Act, despite clear Congressional intent for control to be vested in state and local authorities through the Clean Water Act as amended by the RESTORE Act.

The text of the letter, also signed by Gulf Coast Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is as follows:

October 5, 2012

The Honorable Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama:

Thank you for your support of the RESTORE Act and your efforts to promote the Gulf Coast's recovery following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We appreciate your commitment to ensuring that the responsible parties are held liable for the damage caused to our coastal communities and habitats. However, we have grave concerns about developments of the settlement terms as reported in the press.

Recent reports suggest that the Department of Justice is leaning toward a global settlement agreement that involves reduced Clean Water Act penalties in exchange for a higher allocation under the Oil Pollution Act for natural resource damage assessments. These are separate penalties assessed under separate statutes, and undermining recovery attained through one by diverting fines to the other simply is not appropriate.

As you will recall, the RESTORE Act passed with broad bipartisan support, clearly illustrating the will of Congress--and the millions of Gulf Coast residents we represent--that the significant Clean Water Act penalties owed should be directed toward the Gulf's ecological and economic recovery under the local input and control guidelines established by the law. Circumventing the will of Congress by shortchanging the RESTORE Act is wholly unacceptable to us. We urge you to reject such an approach.

The Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act have different objectives, and the parties responsible for the spill should be held fully accountable under both. Complete ecological and economic recovery of the Gulf Coast can only occur if just penalty amounts are assessed under every applicable statute. Accordingly, we urge you to negotiate a robust settlement that does not achieve a higher amount under one of these statutes at the expense of the other.
Sincerely,

Senator Richard Shelby

Senator Mary Landrieu

Senator Bill Nelson

Senator Marco Rubio

Senator Thad Cochran

Senator Roger Wicker

Senator John Cornyn

Senator Jeff Sessions