Alabama Officials Mull How to Share Oil Spill Penalty Money

September 18, 2012

Local communities should not hire lobbyists as Alabama tries to determine how to dole out at least $1 billion in penalty funds it expects to receive as a result of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said recently.

Bentley is chairman of the 10-member Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council, which held its first meeting last week. The group discussed guidelines on how it will operate but did not take any formal action.

The Mobile-Press Register said that BP will pay an estimated $5 billion to $21 billion in penalties for a 2010 explosion at a deepwater drilling rig that sent oil onto Alabama’s shoreline. Alabama expects to receive a minimum of roughly $1 billion, though Bentley cautioned the group against making any assumptions.

“Let’s work together as a team,” Bentley said. “We don’t need lobbyists. If your project needs a lobbyist, it might not be a good project. So I strongly encourage you not to hire lobbyists. I don’t want to see that.”

The council will determine how Alabama distributes penalties assessed against BP under the Clean Water Act. Congress has passed a law directing that 80 percent of the penalties go to coastal areas affected by the oil spill.

Council vice chairman Jimmy Lyons, the director of the Alabama State Port Authority, said the group should put regional interests ahead of local concerns.

“Our biggest challenge will be to act regionally, not parochially,” Lyons said. “It’s a unique opportunity to really change south Alabama, and we need to make the most of it.”