Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday November 25th 2014

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(Most of) What Happens in the Gulf Stays in the Gulf?


A team of Gulf Coast congressmen announced Wednesday that they are introducing a bill which aims to keep a majority of the fines collected following last year’s oil spill in the region.

The bill is similar to a Senate version — both are called the RESTORE Act — and calls for 80 percent of the money collected under the Clean Water Act in connection with the spill to be allocated to the Gulf Coast area. Without the passage of such a bill, the money — estimated to be somewhere between $5 and $21 billion — will go straight to D.C., where it will be placed into a general fund.

“The House bill provides the necessary flexibility to allow states to meet their needs in responding to the oil spill’s catastrophic effects,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., in a statement. “It gives local and state governments the resources and the capabilities they need to restore their economies and ecosystems that were devastated by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. I believe this bill is better for Florida, because of the added flexibility.”

Miller is joined by a number of other lawmakers as co-sponsors of the bill. This coalition includes Reps. Steve Southerland, R-Fla.; Jo Bonner, R-Ala.; Steven Palazzo, R-Miss.; and Pete Olson, R-Tex. The congressional version of the RESTORE Act was introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.

Scalise calls the bill an “important first step” and “fundamental” to ensuring the region’s recovery.

The Senate version of the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economy of the Gulf Coast Act has broad support. Both Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marc Rubio are supporting it.

The congressional version was somewhat controversial, with lawmakers disagreeing on how to divide up the eventual funds. This bill basically splits 35 percent of the fines equally between the five Gulf states, and places 60 percent in a fund to be doled out by a restoration council. The remaining five percent will go to pay for science and fisheries programs.

“Going all the way back to the Mabus report from last year, there has been a strong feeling that a portion of the fine money should go to help the recovery of the affected states and municipalities,” Miller said in his statement. “I think most Members of Congress understand the devastation to the Gulf Coast Region caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident and subsequent spill.”

The congressional bill will now have to make its way through house committees before being brought before the entire Congress for a vote. Both RESTORE Acts will then need to be signed by the President.

“This is just the beginning of a long process,” Miller said.