WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., introduced legislation Thursday that calls for dedicating at least 80 percent of BP fine money from the Deepwater Horizon disaster to Gulf states.
Landrieu estimated the money from Clean Water Act violations to be about $5 billion if BP is found negligent to $20 billion if the Justice Department finds them criminally negligent.
Landrieu was joined by Republican and Democratic senators from Florida, Mississippi and Alabama.
“This is a very exciting and promising day for the Gulf Coast,” Landrieu said. “The Gulf Coast senators are united today across party lines.”
The money would set up a Gulf Coast ecosystem restoration council and a science and fisheries endowment.
States would receive some of the money based on the damage suffered from the spill.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is backing the legislation.
Vitter sits on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that will be handling the bill.
Aaron Viles, of the Gulf Restoration Network, called the direction of the fine money to states appropriate.
“The fact that we have a bipartisan group of senators from around the Gulf, we’ll see some pretty significant momentum,” Viles said.
Earlier in the day, Landrieu failed to get a vote on her amendment to give coastal states such as Louisiana a share of up to $500 million a year in new money from oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Landrieu proposal was part of a bill that would have addressed safety concerns in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee trickled out of the hearing dominated by the revenue sharing discussion, leaving it without enough members to vote after Landrieu walked out.
“We live to fight another day,” Landrieu said after the hearing.
Under the Landrieu amendment, four coastal states bordering the Gulf of Mexico — including Alabama, Mississippi and Texas — would share in 37.5 percent of new oil and gas drilling development, with a collective ceiling of $500 million a year, beginning in 2019.
The session got snagged over a proposal by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that would have dedicated another 12.5 percent to a clean energy fund.
A number of senators questioned how the fund would be established and whether the money would have to be appropriated each year.
The Murkowski amendment failed by a vote of 12 to 8.
Despite not getting her vote, Landrieu was encouraged that she picked up three more committee votes for her proposal in senators from New Hampshire, Oregon and Delaware, she said.
“That’s further than we’ve gotten ever,” Landrieu said.
Coastal states have long argued that they should share in royalty revenue similar to inland states, which get to keep 50 percent of the money generated from drilling in their states.
Louisiana and other coastal states received 37.5 percent royalty sharing in a 2006 law from leases mostly in the western and central Gulf.
Louisiana receives half of that money collected.
The new money would come from expanding the royalties to all areas of the Gulf.
The measure would also move up by two years when the 2006 royalty money would kick in from 2017 to 2015.
Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who opposes the revenue sharing, indicated that the Landrieu amendment might not get another hearing. Landrieu could try an alternative path, she said.
“There are many ways to bring this up,” Landrieu said. “Many, many, many ways in the Senate.”