Where Will BP Billions Flow? ~

When all is said and done, oil giant BP is expected to owe billions of dollars in fines for its part in last year’s catastrophic Deepwater Horizon drilling platform blowout, which dumped crude into the Gulf for months, fouled beaches and tidal zones, killed fish and other sea life, and smeared birds with evil-smelling black and brown goop. But once BP pays up, who will get the money? That question is a political football. In December, a Presidential task force recommended that a big chunk of the fine dollars go to ecological restoration of sensitive gulf shorelines and estuaries. The New York Times has this story: (“ Task Force Says BP Oil Spill Fines Should Go to Gulf Restoration,” by Leslie Kaufman). Current Federal law calls for fine money to go into a trust fund. But Congress considering re-directing the dollars, the Times reports: “Legislation being considered in Congress would allocate at least 80 percent of the possible Clean Water penalties to gulf restoration but would define restoration efforts in the broadest terms. One version, to be reviewed Wednesday in a House committee meeting, calls for a new joint federal-state council for ecological restoration to direct or influence the flow of 60 percent of the money.” Earmarking money for the affected states to use is not the usual practice for oil spill enforcement, however — and if it happens, it would reduce the pot of money other states have to draw from, according to a report in USA Today (“ States want to direct flow of Gulf oil spill fines,” by Rick Jervis). But Gulf coastal interests say it’s only fair for the money to flow to where the damage was done. “If passed, the RESTORE Act would distribute the funds as follows: 35% of the money would be divided equally among the five Gulf states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas), 30% would fund comprehensive restoration plans for Gulf states, and 30% would go to impact-driven projects for states with the most damage,” USA Today reports. “The remainder would fund long-term studies of the Gulf, according to the bill.” Louisiana is already drawing up plans to spend the money, in case Congress passes the measure. Garrett Graves, director of coastal activities for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, said to USA Today: "Why should the federal government profit from our loss on the Gulf Coast? These are not taxpayer dollars. These are private dollars coming from fines from BP and others for the oil spill. These dollars should absolutely be returned to the areas that were impacted."