Oil-fines bill advances in House

10-14-2011 // Nikki Buskey

This excerpt is from Houma Today

Louisiana congressmen are pushing for action on a bill that would dedicate 80 percent of BP’s spill-fine money to restoration and recovery in the Gulf Coast.


The bill was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives last week after months of haggling over how much money each of the Gulf Coast states should get from Clean Water Act fines related to last year’s months-long spill.

A Senate committee approved similar legislation last month, and lawmakers say they believe there’s a good chance they can also get the support of the House.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, is the lead author of the bill. Scalise will soon represent southern Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes as part of a 1st Congressional District.

The area’s 3rd Congressional District, now represented by U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, was eliminated during the redistricting process that followed the 2010 Census.

Scalise said lawmakers have been working for months to build consensus for months, and finally assembled a coalition of Gulf Coast lawmakers to back the bill. The coalition includes representatives from Texas, Alabama and Florida.

“We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to get it through, and we’d like to do that before the end of the year,” Scalise said Thursday in a telephone interview.

Under the Clean Water Act, BP can be fined from $1,000 to $4,300 per barrel leaked after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. That could add up to fines of between $5 billion and $20 billion.

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Chris Pulaski, an organizer with the National Wildlife Federation, said the House bill does the right thing by keeping a majority of the fine money in the Gulf Coast.

The most important thing you can do is to contact your legislators to thank them for supporting the bill and make sure they stay on top of it, he said. It’s also more important than ever to make sure friends, family and visitors from other states understand how important this money is for the Gulf Coast.

“It’s not just the local delegation. It’s making sure this messages gets spread to folks across the country,” Pulaski said. “The people who come down here to fish, vacation and visit friends and family need to hear about it so they can take that message back to their congressman.”

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