The Gulf of Mexico could see a substantial amount of money for future restoration work as a result of Senate approval on Thursday of an amendment to the transportation authorization bill. The chamber voted 76-22 to direct that 80 percent of any fines and penalties paid by BP to the federal government for the 2010 oil spill go back into the region for environmental and economic improvements.
BP and its partners in the Deepwater Horizon disaster that dumped more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf are still facing civil and possibly criminal charges by the Justice Department for violations of the Clean Water Act and other federal laws. Many analysts say that ultimately BP could be ordered to pay the government more than $20 billion either through a settlement or as a result of a civil trial.
Without an act of Congress, fines and penalties paid for the spill would all go directly into the federal treasury.
The House passed a similar measure last month. Aides on both sides of the Capitol expect the two measures will be reconciled in the final transportation bill, expected to be completed in the Senate next week, with the House following suit later. President Obama is expected to sign it.
The chief sponsors of the so-called RESTORE Act were Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and it had the support of all Gulf region lawmakers from both parties.