Bill Nelson: BP fines are for hard-hit counties, not state

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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. 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.