By NEMS Daily Journal
U.S. senators from Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Florida have sent a bipartisan letter of caution and protest to President Barack Obama about negotiations between the Justice Department and BP on allocating billions of dollars in the oil spill settlement they believe will shortchange local control.
Their concerns point to an agreement that could take control of fines paid to all the states impacted by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil well catastrophe and make some of BP’s fines tax deductible – to its advantage.
Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker are among the coalition who bluntly told Obama in a letter, “Shortchanging the Clean Water Act penalty figure circumvents the will of Congress and the RESTORE Act and is wholly unacceptable to us. We urge you to reject such an approach.”
The letter, sent Friday, stresses that settlement in the Deepwater Horizon well disaster must meet both the ecological and economic recovery needs in Gulf Coast states affected by the 2010 explosion.
In addition to Cochran and Wicker, the letter was signed by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and John Cornyn, R-Texas.
The RESTORE Act devotes 80 percent of fine money levied under the Clean Water Act against BP toward the Gulf Coast communities most impacted by the months-long spill. Depending on the size of fines – which could total between $5 billion and $20 billion – local shares spread across the states could be large sums.
The local money, as widely reported, would be controlled completely by the local governments.
A Florida newspaper reported that the Justice Department is negotiating a settlement with BP that would require the company to pay more in Natural Resource Damage Assessment fines than Clean Water Act fines. BP’s incentive is that NRDA expenses are tax deductible. The less money BP is fined through the Clean Water Act, the less money communities most affected would receive and control.
The senators’ cautions are well taken. It’s not BP’s welfare that’s at stake. The issue is restoration of coastal communities from Florida to Texas where BP’s ill-handled oil did damage.