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Local News

Panhandle To Share In Record BP Oil Spill Settlement

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Five Gulf Coast states, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, will share $18.7 billion from BP in the largest court settlement in U.S. history. If approved, this would end years of litigation over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“This is the decision we’ve all been waiting for; this is it,” said Keith Wilkins, Escambia County Community and Environment Director. Escambia’s share is around $58 million, and adding what’s already come in, the total BP money for the county is around $70 million. Projects, both shovel-ready, and still on the drawing board, are expected to move forward.

“Things are happening; right now, most of it is either still in procurement, design, negotiations, on scope, and best available science applications,” said Wilkins.

The $18.7 billion will be paid over an 18-year period. Early next year Florida will receive the first of its $3.25 billion, more than $400 million for economic losses. Seventy-five percent of that go to Triumph Gulf Coast, a trust fund set up by the Legislature, to help the eight counties in the Florida Panhandle most affected. The rest will be handed out by the Legislature.

“It seemed fair, it seemed a long time coming,” said Hunter Walker, Santa Rosa County Administrator. “For us, it looks like we’ll receive a total of about $24.25 million over the next 15 years.”

Walker says that’s the “direct component” of the payout. The county will also go through its RESTORE council process that’s been in use for an earlier payout from the settlement with Transocean.

New Orleans Federal Judge Carl Barbier still has to approve the settlement, which includes $5.5 billion in Clean Water Act penalties, and $8.1 billion in Natural Resource Damages. The latter helps states reverse damage from the more than 130 million gallons of oil that spewed into the Gulf.

Meanwhile, a series of RESTORE workshops are scheduled for July and August in Pensacola. Escambia County’s Keith Wilkins says they’re aimed at introducing their online project portal, which can be accessed at www.myescambia.com.

BP has said its spill-related costs already exceed $42 billion, even without the Clean Water Act fine. It's also unclear how much BP will end up paying under a 2012 settlement with individuals and businesses claiming spill-related losses.