“I commend the Senate Environment Committee for its quick consideration and approval of the RESTORE Act. This is the most important step Congress can take to ensure that the Gulf Coast recovers from the economic and ecological destruction caused by the oil spill,” Sen. Landrieu said. “By directing BP penalty money back to the states that are dealing with the clean-up and restoration from this devastating spill, we help ensure that the Gulf Coast continues to thrive for decades to come. I look forward to a vote by the full Senate on this important legislation as soon as possible and will continue to push for similar action in the House. Today’s victory would not have been possible without the leadership of Sen. Barbara Boxer, who chairs the EPW Committee, and committee members Sens. David Vitter, R-La., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who helped move this legislation forward.”
Sen. Landrieu and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., introduced the RESTORE Act in July. Joining them as original cosponsors of the legislation were Sens. David Vitter, R-La.; Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Chair of the EPW Committee, was instrumental in forging agreement on the bill and securing its favorable report from her committee today.
The bill will do the following:
Dedicate 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties charged to BP to the restoration of the Gulf Coast
Provide needed resources and flexibility to Gulf Coast states to start economic and ecological recovery immediately
Establish a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and a Comprehensive Plan for the Gulf Coast focused on ecosystem and coastal restoration
Establish a Long Term Science and Fisheries Endowment and Gulf Coast Centers of Excellence
Last year, the Gulf Coast Restoration Task Force, led by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, issued a report titled “America’s Gulf Coast,” for Congress to dedicate a significant amount of civil Clean Water Act penalties incurred by those responsible for the spill to the Gulf Coast. And, earlier this year, National Oil Spill Commission's report on the BP oil spill recommended that no less than 80 percent of the BP penalty money goes to Gulf Coast states for coastal and environmental restoration.
The Clean Water Act allows the Environmental Protection Agency to collect $1,100 per barrel of oil spilled, or $4,300 per barrel if there is a finding of gross negligence, from any party found responsible for an oil spill in federal waters. Based on the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, BP could face fines between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion. Under current law, this money would go to the U.S. Treasury and the Gulf Coast would receive nothing.
Also, today, U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today applauded committee passage of the legislation.
“This legislation was carefully crafted to give Gulf Coast states the resources and flexibility they need to confront the long-term consequences of the oil spill. The Environment and Public Works Committee’s endorsement should help propel the bill to the Senate floor for debate and passage,” Cochran said. “I will work with Chairman Boxer, Senator Landrieu and Senator Shelby to encourage the Senate leadership to bring this bill to the floor as soon as possible.”
“Communities on the Gulf Coast were directly impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” said Wicker. “The Clean Water Act fines that will be assessed should go to help those same communities. Members across the Gulf Coast worked together to develop a balanced solution. This is an important step for the communities that continue to recover from the spill.”
S.1400 is based on recommendations from Gulf Coast restoration groups. The measure would establish a Gulf Coast Restoration Fund to provide Gulf Coast states—Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Texas—with 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines related to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. The U.S. Treasury Department would receive the remaining 20 percent of the fines assessed against BP and other parties responsible for the April 2010 tragedy.
The Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy (RESTORE) of the Gulf Coast Act of 2011 outlines a formula by which the Gulf Coast states would receive shares of the 80 percent fine revenue to address immediate and long-term economic and environmental needs on the coast. In addition, funding would support the creation of a long-term science and fisheries endowment and the creation of Gulf Coast Centers of Excellence.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency may assess a $1,100 fine for every barrel of oil spilled. Fines can escalate to $4,300 per barrel if the damages were due to gross negligence from any party found responsible for an oil spill in federal waters. Based on the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, BP could face fines between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion. Under current law, this money would go to the U.S. Treasury and the Gulf Coast would get nothing.
In addition, a coalition of six groups supporting Gulf restoration praised the Committee for approving legislation today, the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act, with a strong showing of bipartisan support. The bill passed by voice vote with only three requested no's recorded.
“We applaud the Environment and Public Works Committee and Gulf state senators for working across the aisle and recognizing that Gulf restoration will benefit America’s economy and its people,” said a joint statement issued by Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy, and Oxfam America. “The damage from the oil spill was done in the Gulf, and now the Senate needs to take quick action to make sure that the oil spill penalties go to restoring the Gulf region. Given the overwhelming bipartisan support from Americans across the political spectrum, we hope this legislation soon reaches the Senate floor.”
A nationwide poll of 1,006 likely general election voters conducted this spring by the Democratic firm, Lake Research Partners, and the GOP firm, Bellwether Research and Consulting, showed that the vast majority of voters (84%) believe the Gulf Coast—including the Mississippi River Delta—impacts the nation’s economy. Nearly two-thirds of those voters (63%) believe this region impacts the economy in their part of the country.
EPW Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was instrumental in securing her committee’s support for the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act, which is cosponsored by nine of the 10 Gulf state senators. Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) authored the bill, and were joined as original cosponsors by Senators David Vitter (R-LA), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Kay Bailey-Hutchison (R-TX).
“We look forward to working with the Gulf delegation, other members of Congress and the Obama administration to pass a bill that meets the restoration needs of this critical ecosystem and its vulnerable communities,” the groups’ statement concluded.