Two years, two months, and nine days after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon off the coast of Louisiana, the RESTORE Act is on it’s way to becoming law. Thanks to the hard work of Senators in several Gulf Coast states, the Act was included in the final version of the Highway Bill, and was today passed by both chambers of Congress.
Under the Clean Water Act, BP faces as much as $20 billion in fines for its responsibility in the 2010 oil spill that devastated the Gulf Coast. The RESTORE Act (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunity and Revived Economics of the Gulf States Act of 2011) mandates that at least 80 percent of fines collected from BP and other parties be sent directly to areas affected by the disaster.
Previous bipartisan surveys showed that an overwhelming 83 percent of voters supported efforts to dedicate the BP oil penalties to restoration of the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast. Shockingly, over 20 senators, all Republicans, voted against a version of the measure in March, saying that it increased taxes and created “a new environmental bureaucracy.”
“Today’s agreement demonstrates the conference committee’s commitment to restoring the Gulf Coast, one of our nation’s most valuable economic and ecological assets,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. “Communities affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have waited long enough for relief and should not be subject to the whims of future Congresses.”
Once enacted, RESTORE will channel the money to coastal restoration and economic development projects in the region, and has broad support from business interests, environmental groups, the seafood industry and tourism organizations. A new commission in each state, made up of local officials, will decide how the money is spent.
“The Restore act has been an absolute top priority while negotiating a deal on the highway bill,” said Sen. David Vitter, R-La. “This is a huge step toward vital, long-overdue coastal restoration work along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and our neighboring states. The RESTORE language will go a long way in addressing the impacts of the environmental and economic damage from last year’s oil spill, and we think it’s more than fair to have 80 percent of the fines for this event dedicated for restoration along the Gulf Coast.”
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