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Federal official wants Gulf states to get BP fine

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By GERARD SHIELDS

WASHINGTON — The federal government on Tuesday called for up to $19 billion in possible BP oil leak fines to be dedicated to Louisiana and four coastal states to repair environmental and economic damages from the disaster.

Louisiana state and federal leaders have already said that they would like to use most of any money obtained by the state on coastal restoration.

The recommendation came in a report issued Tuesday by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who was asked by President Barack Obama in June to study  Gulf Coast needs.

Mabus didn’t recommend how much of the fines should go to the states. Estimates of the penalties range from $5 billion to $19 billion.

“The coast and people of the coast took the damage,” Mabus said in a Tuesday telephone news conference. “A significant amount of whatever the penalties are should go back to the coast.”

The report also recommends the creation of two panels to aid in the recovery from the leak.

The Gulf Coast Recovery Council would be a state and federal partnership that would help the states handle any penalties obtained through the Clean Water Act. The Gulf Coast Recovery Task Force, headed by Lisa Jackson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, would focus on ecosystem recovery.

Louisiana delegation members have introduced legislation that would give the Gulf Coast states 80 percent of any civil penalties obtained.  Sen.

Mary Landrieu, D-La., who introduced the legislation in the Senate, said Tuesday’s recommendations are a good start.

“I was thrilled today to hear Secretary Mabus’ report,” Landrieu said in testifying before a presidential commission looking into the BP leak. “There are clearly funds to accomplish what we need to accomplish.”

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., expressed reservations that Louisiana would not get its fair share of any money obtained. The other coastal states receiving the funds are Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.

“What concerns me, though, is this new entity in which each Gulf Coast state is equally represented,” Vitter said in a statement. “We weren’t equally hit by the oil.”

Vitter also criticized the creation of the task force.

Legislation would be needed to mandate that the penalty money be dedicated to the states and would also be required to create the panels. The legislation would not be as difficult to be approved from Congress as was money needed for the recovery of Hurricane Katrina, Landrieu said.

“I don’t think it’s the same as Katrina,” Landrieu said. “People didn’t know what happened there. This, the public understands.”

Testifying beside Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Landrieu also said that there should be enough money to go around among the states. Part of the report recommends that a portion of the money go directly to the individual states.

“There is a significant amount of pennies here so there is no reason to fight,” Landrieu said.

In addition to the recommendation, the states could also recover money through the Natural Resources Damage Assessment under the Oil Pollution Act that BP would have to pay to the states. Louisiana and the other coastal states have already asked for $3 billion up front.

Mabus also announced that the federal government will disburse $600 million in Coastal Impact Assessment Program money. The federal government has given out only 15 percent of the money that was supposed to be distributed by this year.

Garret Graves, executive director for coastal activities for the governor, welcomed the news of the report. Another matter to be dealt with, Graves said, is determining with the federal government what projects would be funded.

“The commitment of that revenue stream is crucial,” Graves said. “There are a lot of policy issues that have to be addressed.”

The U.S. House approved an amendment in July offered by U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, that would dedicate fine money to coastal restoration.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, has introduced the House bill calling for 80 percent of the penalty money go to the Gulf states. Louisiana should get the lion’s share of the fine money but at least the administration recognized the need to dedicate the money, Scalise said.

“At least we’re on the same page,” Scalise said.

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Written by demon53

September 29, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] the rest here: Federal official wants Gulf states to get BP fine « The Real Views … By admin | category: LOUISIANA STATE | tags: already-said, assistant-professor, LOUISIANA […]


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