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Workshops Explain Disbursement Of BP Money

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Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas  will share a total of $18.7 billion from BP, as a result of the oil spill resulting from the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010. If approved by New Orleans Federal Judge Carl Barbier, it would be the largest court settlement in U.S. history.

“Just five years later, a potential ecological and economic tsunami has been avoided, because good people all came together and decided it was time to do the right thing,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. “

“This is the decision we’ve all been waiting for; this is it,” said Keith Wilkins, Escambia County Community and Environment Director.   With $58 million set to pour into Escambia County from BP, workshops are being held for residents with ideas on how to spend it. Adding the $58 million to what’s already come in, the total BP money for Escambia is around $70 million. He adds that the plan is to leverage the money three-to-one.

Meanwhile, 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 to the five Gulf Coast states over an 18-year period. Early next year Florida will receive its first payment: more than $400 million to correct economic losses. Seventy-five percent of that goes to Triumph Gulf Coast, a trust fund set up by the Legislature to help the eight Panhandle counties most affected. The rest will be handed out by the Legislature.

State Sen. Don Gaetz, a Republican from Niceville, says the settlement with BP was on the fast track, compared to the other major oil spill in the U.S.

“The Exxon-Valdez litigation is still going on, and that was more than a quarter of a century ago,” said Gaetz. “So consequently to be able to resolve this [Deepwater Horizon], in this short period of time, is significant for the people of Florida, and I think for the other Gulf States.”

An Exxon tanker ran aground in Alaska in 1989, pouring 38 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska. In terms of volume released, it was the largest in U.S. waters until Deepwater Horizon.

A series of RESTORE workshops began earlier this month for Pensacola-area residents wishing to pitch project ideas. They’re aimed at introducing their online project portal, which can be accessed at www.myescambia.com.

The portal will be open until September 30. The two remaining workshops are set for next Monday, July 27, at Langley Bell 4-H Center on Stefani Road, and August 11 at Gull Point Community Center on Spanish Trail Road. Both kick off at 5:30 pm.