Greens and Gulf Coast officials push Congress for fund for oil spill cleanup
Kevin Bogardus and Rachel Leven - The Hill
This excerpt is from The Hill
Environmental groups and local governments on the Gulf Coast have stepped up their lobbying push for legislation that would redirect federal funds toward the cleanup of 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Environmental Defense Action Fund and the National Wildlife Federation have both hired new lobbyists to secure passage of the Restore Act, according to disclosure records. Gulf Coast officials, meanwhile, have been coordinating fly-in visits to Washington this month to lobby for passage.
The effort seems to be paying off. A version of the Restore Act was included in a piece of the transportation bill that the House passed earlier this month, raising hopes it could be included in a final package that passes both chambers. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee marked up a different version of the bill last year.
The Restore Act would redirect 80 percent of the funding from environmental fines and penalties taken primarily from BP — which leased the oil rig that contributed to the spill — and direct it to a specific Gulf Coast recovery fund, rather than to the federal government.
The pot of money could be substantial, as the companies deemed responsible for the spill are likely to face billions of dollars in penalties. Under the Clean Water Act, BP could be forced to pay from $5 billion to $21 billion for the 4.9 million barrels of oil estimated to have spewed into the Gulf.
Environmental groups are also behind the bill.
In late January, the Environmental Defense Action Fund paid for a two-day, $30,000 radio ad blitz in Florida before the GOP primary in support of the Restore Act. That followed other radio ads last year paid for by a coalition of environmental groups that aired on conservative radio stations in five different Gulf Coast states.
The Environmental Defense Action Fund hired Patton Boggs on Jan. 1 this year to work on the bill, according to lobbying disclosure records. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) hired Tracy Holiday later that month to lobby for the legislation.
Adam Kolton, director of the NWF’s national advocacy center, said he is optimistic about the chances for the legislation.
“We are in an environment right now that almost nothing gets done. It’s enormously frustrating,” Kolton said. “Of anything we’re working, we have more reason to be optimistic about this than anything else. This is a bipartisan effort, and we’ve been working very hard to shore up support.”
Several oil companies, such as Anadarko Petroleum, BP and Chevron, reported lobbying on the bill at some point in 2011, according to disclosure records. Contacted by The Hill, the companies either said they had no position on the bill or declined to comment.