In principle, there is one reasonable enough concern about the bipartisan bill to dedicate federal fines from the BP oil disaster to Gulf Coast restoration. That is that fines ought not be dedicated, because in ordinary circumstances — such as ticket-writing quotas — there would be an incentive for agencies to focus on the fine instead of justice.
While that consideration was raised, U.S. senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee rightly agreed the BP disaster is a special case, and the vast fines that may be levied against the companies responsible for Clean Water Act violations are one of those special cases that deserves special treatment.
The bipartisan bill to dedicate fines advances to the full Senate, where we hope it is approved.
The bill was introduced by a coalition of Gulf Coast senators, six Republicans and two Democrats, including U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter of Louisiana. That partnership between our two senators, often at odds, is itself worthy of note.
Americans were rightly horrified at the consequences of the blowout last year, and its loss of life as well as its environmental impact. The revenue from fines to the responsible companies can be put to good use on coastal restoration.
Absent this legislation, the fines go to the U.S. Treasury.
We applaud the work of our senators on this issue, and hope the bipartisan agreement on this cause leads to quick adoption of the measure and its signature into law by President Barack Obama.