GULFPORT, Miss.–Your comments on what should be done with BP settlement money are now welcome. The deal first announced in July that would send $20 billion to five Gulf states, including Mississippi, reached another milestone Monday when it was finalized by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
“BP is receiving the punishment it deserves, while also providing critical compensation for the injuries that it caused to the environment and the economy of the Gulf region,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch at a Justice Department news conference.
“The steep penalty should inspire BP and its peers to take every measure necessary to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again.”
Now comes final approval from the court and a public comment period that Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) are encouraging you to participate in.
Last week, Cochran and Wicker encouraged Mississippians to participate in a month-long public comment period on a proposed rule regarding the distribution and use of settlement funds derived from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The public comment period on this aspect of the BP oil spill process is open until midnight Oct. 28.
“The BP oil spill is among the worst disasters to affect Mississippi, the environment and livelihoods of our people. This settlement is a significant step toward righting that wrong, and allowing our state to move forward with remediation and recovery,” said Cochran. “Negotiating these settlements has been a long process, but we’ve worked to ensure that Mississippi is in the best position to recover and recover well.”
“This final settlement should help close a difficult chapter in our state’s history,” said Wicker. “Mississippi is poised to put its share of the money to good use, implementing the necessary projects to address both economic and environmental setbacks. A full recovery will not happen overnight, but we are well on our way toward ensuring that the Coast is made whole.”
Within the settlement, BP is required to pay $5.5 billion, plus interest, as a civil penalty under the Clean Water Act. As stipulated in the RESTORE Act of 2012, which Cochran and Wicker helped write, 80 percent of this penalty will go to Gulf Coast states for environmental restoration, economic recovery and Gulf seafood promotion.
The company must also pay another $8.1 billion in natural resources damages, which will be allocated to the five Gulf Coast states affected by the disaster. It will also pay up to $700 million in accrued interest to address long-term environmental problems that arise from the spill. Another $600 million is due to settle other claims, including unreimbursed costs to states and the federal government.
Additional settlements with the states and local communities, along with payments associated with earlier settlements reached since 2012, will resolve the civil claims. The final total of $20.8 billion exceeds an assumed $18.7 billion settlement projected in July.
The proposed consent decree will be published in the Federal Register and open to public review and comment for 60 days afterward. That document may be found at http://www.justice.gov/enrd/deepwater-horizon. The materials and instructions for commenting can be found atwww.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.