By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R) from Alabama joined fellow RESTORE Act co-author, Senator Mary Landrieu (D) from Louisiana in a letter to President Barack H. Obama reaffirming Congress’s intent in drafting and passing the RESTORE Act.
Senators Shelby and Landrieu wrote in their letter, “Recent reports suggest that the Department of Justice is leaning toward a global settlement agreement that involves reduced Clean Water Act penalties in exchange for a higher allocation under the Oil Pollution Act for natural resource damage assessments. These are separate penalties assessed under separate statutes, and undermining recovery attained through one by diverting fines to the other simply is not appropriate.”
The two southern Senators wrote, “The RESTORE Act passed with broad bipartisan support, clearly illustrating the will of Congress—and the millions of Gulf Coast residents we represent—that the significant Clean Water Act penalties owed should be directed toward the Gulf’s ecological and economic recovery under the local input and control guidelines established by the law. Circumventing the will of Congress by shortchanging the RESTORE Act is wholly unacceptable to us. We urge you to reject such an approach.”
According to Sen. Shelby’s press release, the Senators’ letter follows a recent media account in the Mobile Press-Register, indicating that the Obama administration officials have been discussing a potential settlement with BP which would give most of the fine money to the administration through the Natural Resources Damages Act, despite the passage of the RESTORE Act by Congress which vests control of the money to state and local authorities.
The letter was also signed by Senators Jeff Sessions (R) from Alabama, Bill Nelson (D) from Florida, Marco Rubio (R) from Florida, Thad Cochran (R) from Mississippi, Roger Wicker (R) from Mississippi, and John Cornyn (R) from Texas.
Senator Sessions (along with Rep Bonner (R) from Mobile and other members of Congress) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. Sen. Sessions and the other concerned members of Congress 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.”
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.
To read Senator Shelby’s release in its entirety: