In a strong voice of bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate Thursday voted 76-22 for the RESTORE Act, legislation co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter to dedicate 80 percent of BP Clean Water Fines to Gulf states to restore coastal ecosystems and economies damaged by the 2010 oil spill. The RESTORE Act was agreed to as an amendment to the Highway Bill, MAP-21.
Clean Water Act penalties will be directed to where the injuries occurred, Landrieu said in announcing the vote. “Where 11 men lost their lives — we still mourn their loss — where our marshes and our beaches were devastated and where the economy was shut down for a period of time, losing billions of dollars for our area — this is where the money should go.”
The Senate also said some of those fines should go to establish an Oceans Trust Fund for the first time in the nation’s history, and should support critical programs for all 50 states for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. “This was a balanced and fiscally responsible compromise, benefitting both the environment and the businesses that depend on the Gulf Coast,” Landrieu said.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Landrieu introduced the RESTORE Act in July 2011. Joining them as original co-sponsors of the legislation were Sens. David Vitter, R-La.; Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. A version of the RESTORE Act, introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., passed the House last month.
“This is a big, big win in the fight to save our coast — a major step forward,” Vitter said after the vote. “And as a leading Republican conferee tasked to hammer out the final version of this highway bill, I’ll place keeping the RESTORE language in the bill as an absolute top priority.”
One of the lead Republicans on the highway bill, Vitter will be on the conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill.