Unfortunately the Oil Pollution Act doesn’t require companies responsible for the massive Gulf oil spill to pay for restoring consumer confidence in the tourism and seafood industries. At least that’s the opinion of the federal commission investigating the spill. As a result, if that’s correct, Alabama must rely on the goodwill of BP PLC and the spill’s other responsible parties to fund such economic restoration efforts. The final report, released on January 11th, was not good news for this part of Alabama’s problems resulting from the oil spill.
Additionally, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling recommended that 80% of Clean Water Act fines resulting from the spill should be spent on environmental restoration of the Gulf. That figure, with good reason, made some Alabama officials very unhappy. Most had pressed for more spending on economic restoration, which would help Alabama. It appears Louisiana will get the largest share of environmental restoration money.
President Obama established the commission in late May. Since that time, the group has traveled to the Gulf states and held several meetings exploring the disaster’s causes and possible solutions. Many of the report’s recommendations would need Congressional approval. Hopefully, Alabama’s Congressional delegation will take the lead in passing the needed legislation.
Finding consensus across the Gulf state Congressional delegations could be difficult, if one state reaps most of the benefits. The report notes that Louisiana suffered most of the environmental damage. It recommends spending 80% of Clean Water Act money, an amount projected to be in the billions of dollars, strictly on environmental projects. Gov. Robert Bentley, who became Governor on January 17th, is reviewing the report. The Governor has stated that he is dedicated to restoring the coast and that’s good news. The report also notes that while BP has come to agreements with Louisiana and Florida to help fund efforts aimed at boosting consumer confidence in Gulf tourism and seafood, a similar agreement with Alabama has not been reached. Such indirect financial harms are currently not compensable under the Oil Pollution Act. That must be changed by Congress.
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