As Panhandle officials were worrying that the state Legislature was moving toward taking control of their share of potentially millions of dollars in BP fines, Senator Bill Nelson today reminded Florida’s governor and state lawmakers that federal law is clear that the money must go directly to where it’s needed most.
In fact, Nelson asked Gov. Rick Scott to veto any legislation that might be ambiguous on this point, if such were to make it to his desk.
Critics of the proposal pending before the state Senate worry it might be an attempt to supersede the authority of eight Florida counties deemed disproportionately impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. These counties – Escambia, Okaloosa, Bay, Walton, Santa Rosa, Franklin, Gulf, Wakulla – are in line for millions of dollars in BP fines under the federal RESTORE Act.
“As a co-author of the RESTORE Act I can tell you it was the intent of Congress to send these fines directly to the places along the Gulf of Mexico where they’re needed most,” Nelson wrote in a letter to Scott today. “If this were to pass through the state Legislature and land on your desk, I’d expect you to veto it if it runs contrary to the intentions of federal law.”
As the proposed legislation continues to evolve, even today, some state lawmakers say they’re attempting to clarify that it isn’t the intent to impact any RESTORE Act funds, only funds the state might see from suing BP.