Editorial: BP should be held fully accountable for spill

Are Gulf Coast residents about to be double-crossed by the Obama administration?

It appears that way if a settlement over fines BP owes as a result of its massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is

approved by the U.S. Justice Department.

BP has been facing billions in fines to the federal government since an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig two years

ago in April killed 11 men and spilled more than five million barrels of oil into the gulf.

Senators and congressmen from the five

affected Gulf states — Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and

Florida — successfully

pushed the RESTORE Act, which mandated that 80 percent of any

fines paid by BP under the Clean Water Act be directed to the

five states. President Obama signed the RESTORE Act into law in

July.

Under the Clean Water Act, BP faces

fines of ranging from $1,000 to $4,300 per barrel leaked as a result of

the oil rig explosion.

That bill could range from $5 billion to $20 billion. Louisiana’s

cut would likely be between 30 percent and 40 percent, anywhere

from $1.5 billion to $8 billion.

The state was planning to apply that windfall to fund desperately needed projects to save and/or restore its embattled coast

and wetlands.

That deal, though, may be in jeopardy

because BP and the Justice Department are reportedly negotiating a

settlement without

using the Clean Water Act. Word is that BP is pushing to pay at

least some of the fines under the Natural Resources Damages

Act.

The reason? Fines paid via the Natural Resources Damages Act are tax deductible; Clean Water Act fines aren’t.

Here’s the absurdity of such an agreement: If a Southwest Louisiana resident gets a speeding ticket on an area roadway and

either pleads or is found guilty, is the resulting fine they must pay tax deductible?

We all know the answer to that. BP shouldn’t be able to write off their fine.

Lawmakers from the five affected states say the potential settlement using the Natural Resources Damages Act amounts to an

end run around Congress that ignores the RESTORE Act.

In a letter to President Obama earlier this week, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., urged the president to hold BP fully accountable

for the spill.

‘‘Anything less would be an injustice to Gulf Coast communities,’’ wrote Nelson.

We couldn’t agree more.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney,

Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.