BP reaches $18.7 billion settlement with feds, states — Groups move to ensure monies go to habitat restoration

Written by Craig Nyhus, Lone Star Outdoor News

A record-setting settlement was announced July 2 by the federal government and the Gulf Coast states with BP, whereby the oil giant will pay $18.7 billion to resolve claims over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BP was leasing the Deepwater Horizon rig in April 2010 when it exploded and sank off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 crewmen and releasing some 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf.

While the agreement is in principle and requires federal court approval, the settlement includes $5.5 billion in Clean Water Act penalties and $8.1 billion in natural resource damages, and includes $1 billion BP had already committed to the restoration. The funds will be paid over a 16-year period.

While funds logically would be committed to habitat restoration, some state legislatures have caused concerns with conservation groups. In Alabama, legislation introduced to rebuild a beach hotel and conference center using BP funds has drawn the ire of many groups, especially since the hotel was destroyed six years before the spill.

That won’t be the case in Texas, said Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director Carter Smith.

“While the Deepwater Horizon spill was unquestionably a tragic event for the Gulf, the settlement is welcome news for natural resources and communities along the Texas coast and the entire Gulf of Mexico,” Smith said. “Texas has many restoration needs and opportunities, and this settlement presents a singularly unique opportunity to think big and consider meaningful ecological restoration along the Texas gulf coast that will protect this natural treasure for generations of Texans to come. We look forward to a thoughtful and inclusive public process to plan and implement this important work in the years ahead.”

Conservation groups are making their feelings known on how the money should be spent by the state and federal agencies. A release provided by groups including the Ocean Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society said it is time to put the money to work in the gulf.

“We need our leaders to make sure that every dime of this settlement is used as it is intended: to address oil spill impacts and repair long-standing ecosystem damage,” the release said. “We cannot afford to wait any longer.”

The release cited the settlement as an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate and expand the response to the harm caused by the spill.

Ducks Unlimited also chimed in, saying it views the settlement as a critical down payment on a sustainable Gulf Coast and “these dollars should be dedicated wholly to the restoration of the region’s natural resources.”

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and its sportfishing partners, the America Sportfishing Association, Coastal Conservation Association and Center for Coastal Conservation, said they have been working with the Gulf’s angling community, state and federal agencies, researchers and conservation groups since 2010 to identify and advance projects to sustain and improve fisheries.

In Texas, where some monies are going has already been identified. Texas OneGulf, a consortium of nine Texas institutions, and the Subsea Systems Institute at the University of Houston will equally share an initial $4.036 million. In addition, the RESTORE Centers of Excellence in each of the five Gulf States, including Texas OneGulf, will receive 2.5 percent of $5.5 billion in Clean Water Act fines to be paid out over 15 years.

“Texas OneGulf has already designated a series of projects to be implemented with the initial $4.036 million in funding it has been granted, and will use the additional funding to advance research activities related to Gulf issues in Texas,” said Larry McKinney, director of the Harte Research Institute.

NATURAL RESOURCES DAMAGE ASSESSMENT

$8.1 billion total, including $1 billion for early restoration

  • Louisiana $5 billion
  • Florida $680 million
  • Mississippi $296 million
  • Alabama $296 million
  • Texas $238 million
  • Regionwide $350 million
  • Open ocean $1.24 billion

RESTORE Act allocations (dedicates 80 percent of all Clean Water Act penalties paid by those responsible for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster to Gulf Coast restoration)

Total for RESTORE $4.4 billion

RESTORE 1 $1.54 billion

RESTORE 2 $1.32 billion

RESTORE 3 $1.32 billion

Centers of Excellence $110 million

NOAA Program $110 million

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