More than 80 percent of the fines that oil giant British Petroleum (BP) will pay for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill will go to the five Gulf states that were affected by pollution. The cash may be used for ecological and economic restoration, as well as for scientific research.
These are the provisions of the RESTORE Act, which was voted by the US Senate on March 8. The vote was 76-22, so there is a big chance that the penalties the company will have to pay will go to where the money is needed most.
The total value of the fines could be anywhere from $5.4 billion to $21.1 billion. During the actual spill, which lasted from April 20 to July 15, 2010, more than 200 million gallons of oil were released into the extremely sensitive waters of the Gulf, causing massive damage to wildlife and water quality.
According to the Clean Water Act, oil companies found responsible for such disasters need to pay federal fines. Usually, these fines go to a US government-maintained oil spill liability trust fund.
In this particular case however, representatives from both sides of the aisle were joined by lawmakers in proposing that most of the money obtained from BP be returned to Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, the five states that were most affected by the spill.
“It's been only 2 years, but we remember the horrors we saw on our televisions. This is the time to act,” Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) said during the Senate floor debate, held just before the vote. She was a sponsor of the new bill.
“We don't have forever. We need to take care of this today,” added Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who is also a sponsor of the bill. The RESTORE Act was then passed with enough votes to ensure that it is attached to a major transportation funding bill.
The House of Representatives has already endorsed the RESTORE Act last month. Officials will now decide whether they want to approve it as part of the transportation funding bill, Science Insider reports.
“It just makes sense for the fines from the Gulf spill to come back to help repair the damage that has been done to the economy and the environment,” a joint statement by advocacy group said in response to the Senate vote.
Signatories include the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy, and Oxfam America, among others.