State Politics

Bill to keep BP money on Coast advances, heads to House

The Deepwater Horizon rig blazes in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
The Deepwater Horizon rig blazes in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Via AP

A bill to create a special fund for BP economic-damages money passed the Mississippi Senate Tuesday and now heads to the House for more work.

Senate Bill 2634, by Sen. Brice Wiggins, R- Pascagoula, creates the Gulf Coast New Restoration Reserve Fund. The bill was co-authored by Sens. Tommy Gollott, R-Biloxi; Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport; Mike Seymour, R-Vancleave; Philip Moran, R-Kiln; and Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula.

The Senate voted unanimously in favor of the legislation.

“The Mississippians most affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster were the fishermen, hotel owners, restaurant owners and residents of the Gulf Coast,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a press release. “In today’s polarized times, many politicians are criticized for focusing only on what is in their own best interest. Today, the Mississippi Senate voted to do what is right. Our state senators recognize a healthy Gulf Coast economy benefits the entire state.”

There was no debate on the bill.

The state has spent about $50 million of the $150 million it has received so far. It will receive a total of $750 million over the next 15 years for economic damages from the Deepwater Horizon disaster than spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The spill shut down tourism on the Coast and damaged the seafood industry on the heels of the Great Recession, which had put a dent in the Coast economy.

Wiggins spread the credit for the bill around.

“While I am honored to be the lead sponsor on the bill, this was a unified effort by the Gulf Coast Senate delegation and would not have happened without the leadership of Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves and Gov. Phil Bryant and their respective staffs,” Wiggins wrote in a release. “The bill now goes to the House, and while there is still a long way to go in the legislative process, we are one step closer to providing much needed funds for economic recovery on the Gulf Coast from the BP oil spill.”

Paul Hampton: 228-896-2330, @JPaulHampton