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BP fine money affected by budget cuts
PENSACOLA BEACH -- Some of the fine money coming to the gulf coast from the oil spill in 2010 is getting tied up by federal budget cuts. Transocean was fined $1 billion for its role in the disaster.... and violations of the Clean Water Act. The Restore Act guarantees that 80 percent of that fine money be directed to the five gulf coast states affected by the spill. But the office of management and budget is now saying it will withhold $16 million of that money this year and another $23 million next year. It blames the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.
The money isn't completely lost. According to the office of management and budget, it simply cannot be used until President Obama and Congress reach a budget deal to end sequestration. Escambia commissioner Grover Robinson is not sure what effect this will have on restoration projects.
He said, the Gulf Coast Consortium has no plan yet on how to spend the money. They've been waiting on funds.
"So the issues we've been hoping to unlock some of the money out of Transocean to get plans moving forward so we'd have it when BP money came. But clearly if it's sequestered and held back it's going to create issues and problems for us," said Robinson.
Robinson is unsure what will happen next. Some people are upset these funds are being sequestered and think the money should be used now.
Cindy Lenn said, I dont think they should be holding it back... Because of that issue."
Steve Wolf said, "I think the government needs to step up get off their seats and move forward."
Since a plan is not in place... No projects are in the works. But Buck Lee with the Santa Rosa Island Authority is hoping some of the Restore Act funds can help pay for nourishment along Pensacola Beach, where erosion is a problem.
"I have a letter here that the board is gonna vote tomorrow night... About $18 million for beach nourishment."
He's not too concerned, though, that some funds are being sequestered. It's just five percent of the Transocean fine this year.... 7.3 percent next year. Lee said the Island Authority needs a permit before any restoration is done. It can take a year before a permit is issued. He's hoping everything is worked out by then.
"Im hoping BP one day will say okay. Well bring back the gulf coast to what it was, Lee said.
Only once sequestration ends in 2021 or if a deal is reached before then, can those Restore Act Funds be released.