State Politics

BP bill appears dead for the year after House-Senate negotiations break down

A Blue Heron stands among marsh grass along the Pascagoula River in October 2010, a few months after the oil spill. On Monday the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill that would direct 100 percent of the BP settlement money paid to the state into a Gulf Coast Restoration Reserve Fund to fund projects to improve the ecosystem and economy on the Coast.
A Blue Heron stands among marsh grass along the Pascagoula River in October 2010, a few months after the oil spill. On Monday the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill that would direct 100 percent of the BP settlement money paid to the state into a Gulf Coast Restoration Reserve Fund to fund projects to improve the ecosystem and economy on the Coast. Sun Herald File

A bill that would have cleared the way to spend most of the BP economic damages settlement money on the Coast appears to be dead.

House and Senate negotiators failed to reach a compromise on the bill before the 8 p.m. deadline Monday, killing the bill. Supporters from the Coast said the only hope is for Gov. Phil Bryant to call a special session within the session, a long shot at best.

Coast leaders had hoped to have the money, eventually about $700 million, sent to a special fund out of the reach of legislators. They also wanted a board made up of people from the Coast to control the spending.

Gary Rikard, director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, explains on July 22, 2015, how the money from the BP oil spill settlement will be distributed. Rikard became director of MDEQ in 2014 after Trudy Fisher resigned.

But lawmakers in the northern part of the state wanted a large share of the money, too. Coast lawmakers argued that the Coast, not the northern part of the state, suffered most, if not all, the damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. The oil wound up on Coast beaches, virtually shutting down the tourism and seafood industries.

The six conferees were: Reps. John Read of Gautier, Scott DeLano of Biloxi and Mac Huddleston of Pontotoc and Sens. Buck Clarke of Hollandale, Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula and Terry Burton of Newton.

SunHerald.com will have more on this story later today.

  Comments