BP Settlement Offers New Opportunities
On Thursday morning, press conferences were held across the Gulf Coast to announce a $18.5 billion settlement with BP. Once this settlement is approved by the court, it will put an end to the legal proceedings between BP and the states to quantify the damage caused to the Gulf Coast as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, as well as BP’s liability for that damage.
Alabama will receive a total of $2.3 billion from the settlement over the course of 18 years, which will be split between the state’s General Fund and the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council (AGCRC). $1 billion will be paid to the General Fund to assist with what the governor is calling “economic recovery,” while the AGCRC will receive $1.3 billion to fund coastal restoration projects.
Governor Bentley stressed that even though the General Fund will be seeing an influx of cash, we do not know when to expect the payments from BP, and this money is “not a solution” to the state’s budget crisis. Legislators will still return to Montgomery later this summer for a special legislative session to draft a 2016 budget. We believe that the $1 billion being allocated to the General Fund should be used to fund line items directly related to Alabama’s natural resources, including state parks and public lands and the Department of Environmental Management. Our state parks are facing devastating budget cuts, and closing these parks would be disastrous for the communities that rely on them as economic drivers.
Since the money has been divided between the General Fund and the AGCRC, it is crucial that the funding the AGCRC receives is spent only on environmental restoration projects. We all know that Alabama’s natural resources are the foundation of its economy, and spending this money on anything but making sure those resources are healthy and resilient is short-sighted.
If spent correctly, the settlement money will make large-scale, long-lasting improvements in our state. Conservation Alabama is committed to making sure that the legacy of this settlement is a healthier, stronger, more vibrant Alabama.