By Ben Raines, Press-Register
September 23, 2021 - MOBILE, Alabama — Calling it a once-in-a-lifetime chance for major environmental restoration along the Gulf Coast, environmental groups and scientists cheered progress on federal legislation that would ship the bulk of oil spill fine money to the Gulf Coast.
“It’s one of those once-in-a-generation opportunities to really get at meaningful healing of the Gulf’s fundamental underpinnings and ecosystems, like oyster reefs and seagrass beds,” said Chris Oberholster, director of the Alabama chapter of the Nature Conservancy.
“Hopefully this act signifies a more sophisticated understanding of just how important this region is to the nation,” said John Valentine, the newly appointed head of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. “I am excited to see that Washington is finally developing an appreciation for the people and resources of the Gulf of Mexico.”
BP PLC faces Clean Water Act fines that will fall somewhere between $5 billion and $20 billion. A bill now before the U.S. Senate would require 30 percent of that fine money to be used for environmental restoration.
An additional 65 percent could be used for either economic or environmental restoration, while the remaining 5 percent would be directed toward scientific research. A House version of the bill had yet to be submitted.
Historically, the Gulf has supplied a large portion of both the nation’s seafood and its oil. But the harvest has taken a toll.