Restore Act funds to be paid out over 15 years
On July 2, BP agreed to an $18.7 billion settlement relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The monies will be split into three categories (economic claims, natural resource damages, and Restore Act civil penalties among Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.
“At the county level, we expect our share to be about $6.3 million of the $5.5 billion paid out to resolve the Clean Water Act civil penalties,” said Lisa Tennyson for Monroe County.
There are two caveats, however. First, the agreement is in principal only; it has not been executed by the parties. Second, the money will be paid out over 15 years.
“The penalty amount of the Restore Act is pretty reasonable,” Tennyson said, “but the 15 year time line is something we did not expect.”
Monroe County has already received $1.1 million from TransOcean’s penalties associated with the oil spill. The Monroe County Commission, the final arbiter of how the money is spent, elected to divide the funds between two big projects: $550,000 for canal restoration in Monroe County and Islamorada, and $500,000 for coral restoration project.
Monroe County Commissioner George Neugent, the Keys’ representative of the Gulf Consortium, said the commission will have to discuss how future monies will be allocated. It’s likely the selection committee will be reconvened and perhaps solicit new bids for water restoration projects. (The previous round of bids totaled $48 million for about 33 projects.)
“We’ll have to talk about changing our thinking as to how we distribute this money so that is fair for the entire county and all the municipalities. And that we pick projects that are large enough to result in obvious benefits for the gulf and the water quality,” Neugent said.
The difficulty will be funding those projects at a rate of $400,000 a year, ($6.3 million allotted over 15 years) while keeping down the administrative costs associated with tracking project that is designed to receive regular but small amounts of financial support. Neugent suggested that the county might consider “bonding out” the entire amount of the 15-year payments, essentially taking out a third-party loan against future payments from BP.