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Huge BP Settlement Payments Coming: Where the Money Goes, Nobody Knows

BILOXI, Miss.–Huge checks are in the mail and some could arrive in Mississippi as early as January. They’re part of settlement money being paid to Gulf state from BP to settle after the 2010 oil spill. What no one seems to be able to answer at this point is specifically where that money will go.

There have been numerous officials, lawyers and experts saying the money will go to “projects”. But, after much money and time has been spent on negotiating the settlement, including extensive studies on economic and environmental damage, there does not seem to be any one person who can provide a clear target for any of the money.

There are two types of payments that are part of the $1.5 billion coming: (1) Economic damages of $750 million. It appears the state legislature will have discretion over where that money will go. (2) Money for environmental cleanup and restoration as part of the RESTORE Act and in Natural Resource Damage Assessment payments.

“In the case of the Natural Resource Damages, the decision is with the what are known as the ‘trustees’ and that’s the federal agencies like Interior and the EPA and NOAA and the USDA, along with the state involved,” said David Muth, the National Wildlife Federations director of Gulf Restoration.

“Similarly for the RESTORE Act, the trustee council is also made up of those agencies and others and they’ll be working to distribute those funds. Some of the money goes directly to the state.”

Muth, in an interview with News Mississippi Tuesday, could not provide any specifics.

“We have not seen the fine details of the settlement. They’re still being worked out among the parties in the federal court.”


Similarly, with the part of the money that is coming directly to the state for economic damages, with a $150 million check going to the general fund as early as January, no one is able to say just yet how that money will be spent.

“I formed GoCoast 2020 in August 2012. The purpose was to make sure that we had our plan prepared, so that we could show the courts that we were serious about our recovery,” said Gov. Phil Bryant at last week’s press conference announcing the settlement.

“One of the things that we did continue to argue was to try to put as much funding into the state as we could,” said Bryant. He admitted that the initial payment to the state may not end up going to coast “projects”.

“That would be my recommendation. Of course the legislature doesn’t always listen to my recommendations. I know that your delegation will make sure that that money, as much as possible, will be appropriated to the coast. It should be, in my opinion.”

The federal government will work with the states in expending this money<‘ said Atty. Gen. Jim Hood at the same press conference. Hood expounded on the economic damage studies that were done to get the settlement. What apparently was not done was to show, after each city and county worked to prove their specific economic damages, how some of the money would go to alleviate the damages in those particular areas.

As of now, there does not seem to be any specific outline on where huge chunks of settlement money will land, except in the bank.

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