Treasury moves to distribute BP oil spill fines

The Treasury Department issued a rule Wednesday to distribute to Gulf Coast states the fines paid by BP and Transocean after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.

Under the plan unveiled Wednesday and due to be published in the Federal Register Friday, 80 percent of the billions of dollars in fines will go into a trust fund. Thirty-five percent of the trust fund will be split between Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida for economic and ecological restoration.

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Another 30 percent will go to ecosystem restoration, and yet another 30 percent portion will go to states based on the amount of shore line hit by oil. The remaining 5 percent will go to federal and state marine research efforts.

The Wednesday plan implements the 2012 Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act, or Restore Act.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) took credit for the department’s action.

“Since I was elected as a U.S. Senator, I have continuously and consistently worked to fund coastal restoration and protection projects for Louisiana,” Landrieu said in a statement.

“The Treasury Department currently has millions of dollars collecting dust, and I have pushed this administration to get these dollars that Congress directed back to Louisiana and the Gulf Coast out the door so we can put these dollars to work to rebuild our coast.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) cautiously welcomed the rule.

 “It’s unacceptable that it’s taken the Obama administration this long to issue a rule that people actually need and that is 20 months late,” Rubio said. “However, with rules like this, the devil is always in the details, so I will be examining it closely and consulting with Florida stakeholders to ensure our people are not being short-changed as we continue implementation of the act.”

The total amount of money available has yet to be determined. The fund currently has $800 million from Transocean’s fines, but BP’s fines are still being determined in court, and could total as much as $17.5 billion.

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