Florida Senator Bill Nelson was in Pensacola Wednesday to update local officials on the status of payments from the RESTORE Act, which was passed after the BP oil spill in 2010.
Make no mistake; there is still a lot of litigation left to go in the aftermath of the BP oil spill. However, Senator Nelson was in town to pass along some good news to local officials concerning the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars that are available.
“One of the companies that was involved in this that has already settled is Transocean, and they were a subcontractor to BP in the actual operation of the well. And, they have settled for approximately $625 million and that fine has already been paid to the federal government.”
However, before those funds can be distributed to the Gulf coast communities affected by the spill, the government must make regulations according to the law.
“And, the law was the one that Mary Landrieu from Louisiana and I passed two years ago called the RESTORE Act. And, it has a very defined set of criteria, which we had to negotiate with the other gulf coast senators. And, that money is ready to flow as soon as the Treasury Department in the Office of Management and Budget issues their regulations.”
Senator Nelson says he expects those regulations to be announced by this Friday, and if not then, no later than next Wednesday.
That will clear the way for the funds from Transocean can be distributed, even though the trial to determine BP's culpability is still going on. Nelson also said that BP's liability could be anywhere between a thousand to five thousand dollars per barrel of oil spilled.
“Multiply that times 5 million barrels, and you can see that you’re talking anywhere between $5 billion to $25 billion,” he said.
But the Senator pointed out that there is still a long way to go before that particular pot of money will be available to the Gulf Coast states affected by the spill. However he says it's important to get these first dollars flowing so local officials can plan for the next one. The meeting which was held at Pensacola State College was attended by many state and county officials including State Senate President Don Gates and several Escambia County Commissioners including Grover Robinson IV who thanked the senator for his help.
“No other elected official representing us statewide is more active for Floridians when they’re hurting. When I needed somebody, whether it was oil spill or whether it was flood. Where we’ve needed, he’s never asked you know what it is or what happened. He says if Floridians are hurting, he’s been there to figure it out,” said Robinson, who was invited by Senator Nelson to testify at a meeting of the Senate Commerce Committee a couple of weeks ago.
Nelson said he convened the meeting to "give them a kick in the pants to tell them ‘let’s get moving’ get these ‘regs’ (regulations) out so the money can start flowing.”
The senator noted that the RESTORE Act was passed as an amendment to a larger transportation bill, so many of the, as he puts it, "nooks and crannies" of the law will need to be worked out on the fly. However he did leave town making sure local officials knew that some of the money from the oil spill fines will be flowing shortly.