Triumph Oil Spill Settlement Bill Moving Through Florida Legislature
Senate Bill 364, which would ensure funds received in the BP Oil Spill settlement go to the eight hardest-hit counties, has cleared the first hurdle in the Florida Legislature.
The Recovery Fund for the Deepwater Horizon Incident was passed by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development. Its primary sponsor is Sen. George Gainer (R-Panama City).
“One of the main events of my political life, and one of the things I feel like I can do for northwest Florida, that certainly would make my time [in Tallahassee] worthwhile,” said Gainer, speaking to WMBB-TV in Panama City.
The eight counties disproportionately impacted by the spill are: Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Franklin, Gulf, and Wakulla. Currently, they receive 75 percent of $1.5 billion in settlement funds. SB 364 would clarify that the money goes to Triumph Gulf Coast.
Co-sponsors are Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee), and Sen. Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze). Under the settlement, the payments are spread out over 18 years.
“The first deposit has been delivered; $400 million, $300 million goes to the eight counties,” said Broxson. It’s been in Tallahassee since July. For the last eight weeks, we’ve been in a battle trying to get that money transferred to the Triumph Corporation.”
Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. is tasked to work with local governments to make awards to programs and projects meeting economic recovery priorities, as well as diversification and enhancement of the disproportionately affected counties.
Along with mandating the initial settlement payment directly to Triumph Gulf Coast, the bill also appropriates future settlement payments directly to Triumph no later than 30 days after they’re received by the state.
Jay Trumbull chairs Triumph Gulf Coast, which lawmakers created in 2013 to make ensure proper distribution and oversight of the money on behalf of the eight Panhandle counties.
And how long before the eight counties could see the cash in the bank after the transfer? Trumbull says that’s up to the Triumph Board.
“If we get to a point where everybody’s favorable in this and the Governor signs this bill, then those dollars will be put in that trust fund, and the Triumph Gulf Coast board would have the ability to make awards very, very quickly,” said Turnbull.
Now out of the initial committee, the measure’s next stop is the Senate General Appropriations Committee. Senate Bill 364 also includes expansion of the Triumph Gulf Coast board from five members to seven.