Millions of dollars in restitution are being used to build new piers and boat ramps and restore sand dunes on Florida Panhandle beaches fouled by the Gulf oil spill. Florida and eight counties are about to get a share of the money paid by BP and the companies that made the drilling equipment that failed in the spill. Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are also getting shares of the money.
The federal government recently released the first billion dollars through the Oil Pollution Act, which assesses damages against companies responsible for spills and billions more could be coming through the act and other court hearings. BP says it has already spent $3.4 billion in Florida for claims and settlements, tourism promotion and other expenses.
A trial is underway in New Orleans to determine the amount to fine BP and other responsible parties for each barrel of oil that flowed from the blown out well. Under the Clean Water Act, a polluter can be forced to pay a minimum of $1,100 per barrel of spilled oil. The fines nearly quadruple to about $4,300 a barrel for companies found grossly negligent. This could leave BP facing nearly $18 billion in fines.
The five Gulf States have agreed to split 35 percent of the total fine and the remaining 65 percent will go to various ecosystem and environmental projects throughout the region. In Florida, eight counties that had the largest impact from the spill will split 75 percent of the state’s share. Much of what BP pays will be used to protect the long-term health of the entire Gulf Coast ecosystem.