Gulf Oil Spill: States jockey over money
A fight is brewing among Gulf Coast senators over how much money their states should get to cope with the ongoing Deepwater Horizon spill. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) introduced legislation Thursday that would speed up hundreds of millions of dollars of drilling payments four states -- Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas -- are due to receive from oil production off their coasts. A similar bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives.
But Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) called it "outrageous that Florida would be refused a share of any spill mitigation funds when our state has the most to lose."' The April 20 blowout of the mile-deep well occurred 48 miles off the Louisiana coast, but Gulf currents could eventually wash some of the oil onto Florida beaches.
"I'm happy to work with any of the other coastal states, but right now it's imperative that we get this funding,’’ Landrieu said.
However, both senators’ efforts to secure money for their states could run into trouble from lawmakers concerned about the massive federal budget deficit. "My answer to them is you're either going to pay a little bit now ... or you're going to pay a huge amount later,’’ Landrieu said at a Capitol press conference. "[Hurrican] Katrina proved that.’’
She added that such states as Louisiana bear the risk from oil production off its coasts "which is being played out in a horror movie right now in front of us'' and should receive the money to protect and restore their coasts.
A 2006 law dedicates a portion of offshore oil and gas revenues to coastal protection and restoration in the four Gulf Coast energy-producing states. Under Landrieu's new bill, The Restoring Ecosystem Sustainability and Protection on the Delta Act, or RESPOND act, funds from new leases would be shared immediately, as opposed to 2017.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has included $68 million in aid to the Gulf Coast in an emergency war-spending bill headed to the Senate as early as next week. The administration has said it expects to recover much of the money from BP.
Congress is gearing up to hold more hearings on the spill next week.
-- Richard Simon in Washington
Photo: Oil washes onto Louisiana's Elmer's Island Wildlife Refuge, a 230-acre state preserve, on Thursday. Credit: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries