More than four years after the Gulf oil spill, the U.S. Treasury Department released information for how the state governments of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and local governments can apply for federal funds authorized under the Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States (RESTORE) Act to help rebuild their economies and restore the environment impacted by the disaster.
Treasury today took another important step to help the communities, ecosystems, and people of the Gulf Coast as they continue to recover from the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, said Assistant U.S. Treasury Secretary David Lebryk on Wednesday. With this action, affected states and municipalities can now begin the process of applying for grants from the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund.
The Treasury announced on Wednesday that 35 percent of the funds, which would come from fines on BP and other companies with estimates ranging wildly from $5 billion to $20 billion, in the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund would be divided between the five states for economic and environmental projects. The funds headed to Florida will be divided among 23 counties impacted by the oil spill. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which is made up of six federal agencies and the five state governments, will use 30 percent of the funds for yet-to-be-determined projects to help restore the region, while another 30 percent will go to fund state expenditures. The rest of the funds will go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and for research centers in the region.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., explained why the decision was important. You couldnt spend the BP oil fines until we had these rules, said Nelson on Wednesday. Now that we have them, we need to get the money flowing to the affected communities.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was less enthusiastic and said President Barack Obamas team dragged their feet on the matter.
Without a rule, Gulf states like Florida have been held back from being made whole again after the damage inflicted by the Deepwater Horizon disaster, said Rubio. Its unacceptable that its taken the Obama administration this long to issue a rule that people actually need and that is 20 months late.
However, with rules like this, the devil is always in the details, so I will be examining it closely and consulting with Florida stakeholders to ensure our people are not being short-changed as we continue implementation of the act, Rubio noted.
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