Covering Louisiana

Apr 14, 2011 6:40 PM by Press Release

Landrieu, Vitter Unveil Bill Dedicating BP Penalty Money to Restore Gulf Coast

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and David Vitter, R-La., today introduced legislation that calls for dedicating at least 80% of BP penalties paid under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to Gulf states to restore the coastal ecosystem and its economies that were damaged by the BP oil spill.

Following the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon last year, nearly 5 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf over a three-month period. As a result of the spill, 600 miles of Gulf coastline were oiled, 320 miles of Louisiana's coastline were oiled and some oil still remains; 86,985 square miles of waters were closed to fishing, resulting in an estimated $2.5 billion loss for the fishing industry; and $23 billion loss to tourism across the Gulf Coast. The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling estimates that full restoration of the Gulf will cost between $15 billion and $20 billion. That equates to at least $500 million annually for 30 years.

"On April 20, we will mark the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 men, injured dozens of others and shocked millions," Sen. Landrieu said. "There are many steps that our nation must take to respond to that horrific incident. That's why Senator Vitter and I introduced the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act of 2011, which we believe is one of the most important things that needs to be done. This is a great opportunity for the nation to do right by the Gulf Coast. It's a great opportunity for the polluters to step up and do the right thing. BP will have to pay a serious fine to the federal government. We believe that at least 80% of that fine should go to the area where the injury occurred and that the fine. And that it is best directed to help the environment which was injured and to get the taxpayers off the hook and put the polluters on the hook for picking up this tab. And to do so in a way that's fair to the Gulf Coast states."

"As we near this one year anniversary of the BP oil spill disaster, we first need to remember and pray for the victims of the tragedy and their families, but we must also work to restore the coast," Sen. Vitter said. "The legislation will go a long way in addressing the impacts of the environmental and economic damage, 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."

The RESTORE Act will establish the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund to be made up of 80% of all administrative, civil and criminal penalties paid by BP or any other responsible party in connection with the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The penalty money will be divided up in three areas:

1) 35% of these funds will be shared equally by the 5 Gulf Coast States - but for specific authorized uses that will restore our ecosystem and support our travel, tourism and seafood industries that were devastated by the spill.

2) 60% of funds will go to an established Federal-State Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to implement a robust and comprehensive restoration of the Gulf Coast.

3) 5% of the funds allocated by the RESTORE Act will establish a Science and Technology program through Centers of Excellence focused 5 on main disciplines:

· Coastal wetland restoration and protection.

· Coastal and marine fisheries, wildlife, and ecosystem research, monitoring, mapping, and recovery.

· Offshore energy development, including research and technology to improve the safety in exploration and development of oil and gas resources.

· Sustainable growth, economic and commercial development.

· Port, harbor, and waterway construction and maintenance

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, 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.

Since 1930, 1,900 square miles of coastline have been lost in Louisiana. Each year, 25 square miles of wetlands - or a football field sized area every 30 minutes - is lost. Today's weakened marshes allow oil to penetrate more deeply, killing vegetation and destroying habitat deep within the wetland. As the vegetation dies, the natural eroding forces of the ocean quickly churn the soil into open water, eroding Louisiana's natural buffers from storm surge and leaving coastal communities in even greater peril.

There are 2 million people living in coastal Louisiana, which also accounts for 30% of the commercial fisheries in the United States. Louisiana's coast produces 30% of the nation's crude oil supply and 34 % of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. The Gulf Coast contributes $3 trillion to the national economy and it is responsible for 17% of the National GDP.

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