President Barack Obama supports directing most BP oil spill penalties to Gulf Coast restoration


WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is supporting a proposal to direct most of the oil spill penalties expected to be paid by BP to the Gulf Coast, a top White House aide says.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is proposing that 80 percent of penalties go to Gulf Coast states.

Landrieu estimated that the penalties should amount to at least $5 billion, with 80 percent generating $4 billion to the Gulf Coast. If Louisiana got half that amount, it could provide $2.5 billion for coastal restoration efforts.

Asked about the proposal on Meet the Press Sunday, Carol Browner, President Barack Obama’s top advisor on energy and climate change, said: “He absolutely supports the notion of returning it to the region.”

Browner wouldn’t say whether the administration favors an 80 percent payout, or something less.

“We’re going to have to work with (the House and Senate) to make sure that the Gulf Coast communities see the benefits of this money,” Browner said.

Without legislative authority, Browner said all the fines paid by BP for the massive Gulf oil spill would go the federal treasury.

Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, has proposed that a new penalty of $200 million for every 1 million barrels spilled, be established, retroactively. It would generate up to $1 billion from BP for the Gulf Coast, according to Melancon’s spokeswoman Robin Winchell. His amendment was attached to spill legislation recently passed by the House.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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