New House Amendment Would Dedicate Gulf Oil Spill Fines to Gulf Restoration

Seven nonprofit advocacy groups praised an amendment in an updated oil spill response bill introduced last night (Jan. 26) by U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Ma.) and other House Democrats that would implement a key recommendation by the bipartisan oil spill commission.  The recommendation is for Congress to dedicate 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties to be assessed for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to Gulf Coast restoration.

The groups also lauded GOP Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise for introducing bipartisan legislation earlier this month to require at least 80 percent of the civil and criminal penalties charged to BP under the Clean Water Act be returned to the Gulf Coast for long-term economic and environmental recovery.  That bill, the Gulf Restoration Act (H.R. 56), is cosponsored by four Louisiana GOP Congressmen – Reps. Rodney Alexander, Charles Boustany, Bill Cassidy and Jeffrey Landry – and one Louisiana Democratic Congressman, Rep. Cedric Richmond.

Rep. Markey discusses the new legislation at a press conference, Jan. 26, 2011. (Credit:

“We thank the Louisiana delegation and House Democrats for their leadership on an issue that is vital to restoring both the Gulf ecosystem and the Gulf economy, which depends upon that ecosystem’s health,” said a joint statement by the seven groups.  “We look forward to working with House and Senate leaders of both parties on securing legislation to send the oil spill penalties back to the Gulf region where they belong.”

The fines for violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) alone will range from a maximum of between $1,100 and $4,300 for each of the 4.9 million barrels spilled, depending upon whether the responsible parties are found to have been grossly negligent for the Macondo Well blowout.  Current estimates of the CWA fines range from a maximum of between $5 billion and $21 billion.

“Without Congressional action, the fines for violating the Oil Spill Pollution Act and Clean Water Act for the Gulf oil disaster automatically will be deposited in the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and Federal Treasury, respectively, creating an unacceptable windfall for the federal government,” the groups added.  “We urge Congress to fulfill President Obama’s promise to make the Gulf ecosystem better than it was before the disaster by heeding a key recommendation from the bipartisan oil spill commission to dedicate 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties to long-term restoration of the Gulf.”