Last Modified: Thursday, October 04, 2012 5:52 PM
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.
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.
Posted By: John Jensen On: 10/5/2012
Title: At least get your facts straight
There is no such law as the Natural Resources Damages Act. NRDA is a process, resulting in restoration or money for restoraiton, not fine, under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA). OPA and its NRDA regulations, created becasue of the Exxon Valdez spill, was meant to deal with bad oil spill like the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo well blowout. It holds responsible parties liable for natural resource losses and requires them to fund restoration. How can this law, which can be applied in addition to the Clean Water Act, be an end run. BP is subject to both laws.
There is a HUGE overlap between the outcome of an Oil Pollution Act NRDA and the newly minted RESTORE Act. Both result in environmental restoration for oil spill impacts in both cases and States and the Federal government share the responsibility for implementing both. Neither the Feds or the Sates control NRDA restoration funds because whatever funds are recovered for restoraiton are jointly managed on behalf of the public by a Trustee Council comprised by State and Federal agencies. The RESTORE Act has a similar Council to approve plans for the use of the Clean Water Act Funds.
Finally, as an editorial board, do some due diligance for us readers and fact check whether OPA damages are deductible. I don't know, but I agree with you, I can't deduct my speeding tickets so if this is true, show us what loophole Congress needs to close on these oil companies.
Posted By: Terence Fallon, Jr. On: 10/5/2012
Title: BP's 200+ Million Gallon Nightmare!
This Oil Spill has messed so much up here in Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast; we need real help. This is a so wrong! The Deepwater Horizon Spill was over 2 years ago (4-20-2010), and Hundreds of Thousands of people affected are left waiting for help after millions of gallons of oil was dumped on their livelihood.
The Great Seafood industry is a huge part of my and many people’s culture, to fishing, shrimping, crabbing, oyster bedding, crawfishing. What about our food? How safe is it? (now, and for the future).
Many people lost their business for long periods of time to indefinitely, if we do not get help to restore our businesses over this criminal act of Gross Negligence, I think the history books will look how our government failed America and its Americans in a huge way to Oil Companies. This is a real shame, if they do not help us for our suffering. We never asked for this oil spill, we never asked to lose business; we never asked to destroy our food for our families.
To the people on boats, to the people that repair the boats, to the people that go see what we do and come to experience our rich culture, and eat our Cajun/Southern cuisine here in the south along the coast. A bunch of people fill “strong armed” into living in a toxic nightmare.
This is America, not Chernobyl Russia. Please don’t leave your people hanging, like we or just a number, we our people (Americans) with livelihoods, which love America too with all our heart.
–Terence Fallon, Jr.