By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) from Alabama and Rep. Jo Bonner (R) from Mobile and other members of the Gulf Coast congressional delegation sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing concerns about a possible settlement in the Deepwater Horizon case.
Senator Sessions said, “The purpose of our letter is to share our concerns with the Attorney General and to ensure that the settlement process abides by the RESTORE Act—which we fought hard to pass and get signed into law.”
Congressman Bonner said, “Last week, news broke that the Justice Department was finalizing a deal to disproportionately divert most of the potential fines into a new pot (National Resource Damage Assessment, “NRDA”), which the Obama administration would control. The remainder would flow into a smaller pot (Clean Water Act, “CWA”), from which the RESTORE Act would be funded. The potential loss of fine money flowing to our coastal communities could be significant as total fines collected are predicted to range from $5 billion to $20 billion.”
Sen. Sessions, Rep. Bonner, and the other signatories of the letter wrote, “We are, in the strongest possible terms, opposed to a settlement agreement that disproportionately applies penalties to NRDA over the CWA. Any attempt to do so would be viewed as an effort to circumvent the will of Congress and the President, and the enacted formulas and procedure agreed upon in public law under the RESTORE Act.”
Rep. Bonner said, “The Justice Department’s 11th hour end-run around the Gulf Coast states is not only an affront to the intent of Congress, which strongly endorsed the RESTORE Act, but it is also a blatant act of hypocrisy from an administration that has repeatedly attacked tax breaks for oil companies. How can it justify allowing BP tax write-offs for fouling the Gulf.”
In the letter the Congress members wrote, “With the enactment of the RESTORE Act (P.L. 112-141), Congress and the President have expressed their clear intention that 80 percent of all administrative and civil penalties paid by the responsible parties under the Clean Water Act (CWA), whether by court order or negotiated settlement, be utilized by the affected Gulf states for environmental and economic restoration, long-term fisheries and ecosystem research, and to ensure the states are prepared for future man-made and natural disasters.”
In 2010 the Transocean oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon exploded while opening a massive new oil field for British Petroleum (BP). Millions of gallons of crude oil were released into the Gulf of Mexico leading to a disastrous fishing and tourist season for much of the Gulf Coast. BP is negotiating a financial settlement with the federal government.