BP to pay an initial $1B to restore Gulf

BP has reached an agreement with key state and federal officials to set aside $1 billion to begin restoring parts of the Gulf that were damaged by last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Under the agreement, BP will distribute an initial $1 billion for key restoration projects while state and local officials complete a broad review aimed at determining how much the company must pay to make up for the spill's effect on natural resources in the Gulf.

Gulf coast officials have called on BP to commit money to restoration as soon as possible, noting that a full natural resources damage assessment could take years. 

Under the agreement with BP, state and federal officials will use early data they have collected to “identify injuries that are evident now and propose plans to restore those resources at the earliest opportunity, focusing on projects that can start in 2011 and 2012,” BP said.

The “trustees” responsible for conducting the natural resources damage assessment include the Interior Department, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and several states.

“BP believes early restoration will result in identified improvements to wildlife, habitat and related recreational uses in the Gulf, and our voluntary commitment to that process is the best way to get restoration projects moving as soon as possible,” BP America CEO Lamar McKay said in the statement.

Gulf coast lawmakers quickly praised the agreement.

"This down payment is a positive step in our recovery from the oil spill, and I commend all the parties involved for coming together to get this first step done,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in a statement.