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Gulf Coast Restoration Measure Clears Major Hurdle

March 9, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas - In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a measure which would ensure that the majority of settlement funds from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill are used in the Gulf of Mexico.

The RESTORE Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, steers 80 percent of yet-to-be-determined industry penalties toward Gulf restoration and research, instead of toward unrelated purposes.

Susan Kaderka, who directs the National Wildlife Federation's South Central office, calls the vote a big victory for Texas and other Gulf Coast states.

"We consider it a matter of justice that these funds from this terrible disaster be returned - or a large portion of them returned - to this area of the country that was so affected, to help it recover."

Approval came on a 76-22 vote, with both Hutchison and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, in support. The measure was an amendment to a contentious transportation bill, which still will need to be reconciled with the House. The House already has passed a similar version of the amendment. The RESTORE Act does not affect the settlement of private claims, which are being overseen by a federal court.

While Texas did not suffer the kinds of initial damages from the BP spill seen in other areas of the Gulf, Kaderka says the state nevertheless has been vulnerable - both economically and environmentally - since it relies upon shared natural resources...

"Energy production and fisheries and recreation and navigation - and it's a wintering ground for migratory birds and waterfowl - all of these things that depend on a healthy, resilient Gulf Coast."

Kaderka says the one-time infusion of settlement funds will provide an opportunity to not only restore a coastline reeling from natural and human-caused disasters but also to help monitor their longer-term impact on ecosystems - without relying on tax dollars. If the amendment becomes law, 20 percent of industry penalties will be deposited into a trust fund for future oil spills.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX