Departing EPA chief: Delivering BP spill fines to Gulf states a proud moment

Jackson told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that working with President Obama on the Restore Act was a highlight of her tenure. That law ensures at least 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines from the Gulf of Mexico disaster would go to Gulf states for habitat, conservation and coastal restoration. 

Jackson, a New Orleans native, said she wants to see that "the penalty money goes to do good" to restore the damaged Louisiana coast. She added that the response effort amounts to a "proud moment as a Louisianan to know that some of the most forward-looking work on restoring wetlands is coming from Louisiana."

BP has not yet paid any of the fees subject to the Restore Act, as it has only settled criminal — not civil — charges. Transocean Deepwater Inc. has, as it agreed to settle $400 million in civil fines on top of $1 billion in criminal penalties earlier this month.

The BP incident started when Transocean-owned Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blew out in the Gulf.

The explosion killed 11 workers, and BP’s containment system failed to plug the Macondo well, spewing an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf.

BP struck a record $4 billion criminal settlement with the Justice Department in November for its part in the accident. It also paid a separate $525 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission for securities violations.

The Obama administration and Republicans often battled on the response to the BP accident.

In particular, House Republicans railed against a six-month Gulf drilling freeze the White House invoked following the spill. GOP lawmakers called it unnecessary, and said it cost jobs for Gulf states.

Jackson also was the subject of frequent House GOP criticism. Lawmakers mostly took issue with air and water pollution rules rolled out under her watch, which Republicans said were too burdensome for industry.

Jackson, who plans to leave the administration sometime after the State of the Union address, had parting words for House Republicans last week in an interview with USA Today.

“One of the questions everyone is asking themselves is whether the U.S. House of Representatives is actually going to reflect the will of the people on a lot of these issues, and the will of the people is awfully clear,” she said.

— This story was last updated at 2:32 p.m.