State lawmakers discuss plan for Deepwater Horizon settlement money

BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Deepwater Horizon (7).jpg
Posted at 9:16 PM, Oct 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-21 21:16:00-04

TALLAHSSEE, Fla. – With billions of dollars coming to Florida in reparation for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a Senate panel this week tried to get a better feel for how the money will be spent.

The 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico directly damaged the state's tourism and fishing industries as well as its environment, but also had indirect effects as far away as the Florida Keys.

That's partly why senators on the Agriculture Committee were interested in $364 million that Florida counties will divide under what is known as the federal RESTORE Act. Seventy-five percent of the money, or $273 million, goes to the eight hardest-hit counties – Escambia, Okaloosa, Bay, Walton, Santa Rosa, Franklin, Gulf and Wakulla. The other 25 percent, or $91 million, goes to 15 counties, ranging from Taylor to Monroe, along the coast.

Committee Chairman Bill Montford says with such a large settlement, it is important to follow how the money is handed out.

“We have got to make sure that we continue to have a well defined path, because if not, with that much money spent over that period of time, we can get off path very easily,” said Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat.

The deadly explosion aboard the drilling rig owned by BP and operated by Transocean is considered the largest marine oil spill in the history of the industry. It killed 11 people and sent millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, taking months to cap and seal the well.

Florida will collect $680 million from the National Resource Damage Assessment and $356 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for restoration projects. It will also net at least 676.5 from the RESTORE Act.

Much of the money will be paid over a 15-year period.

Both BP and Transocean will contribute to each fund. Additionally, the state will receive two billion dollars for economic damages, which will flow through the Attorney General's Office.