WASHINGTON - Language giving Florida's Gulf Coast a share of what could be as much as $20 billion in oil spill-related fine money was included today in a final transportation bill being negotiated by federal lawmakers, according to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
The language will be part of a broader agreement between the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-led Senate on a package to pay for bridge and road construction and other transit programs. Senators from the Gulf states, including Nelson, insisted that the oil-fine money be part of the broader transit deal, Nelson said. The Florida Democrat was among the handful of lawmakers who negotiated the final transportation package.
"This is something the Gulf Coast very badly needs," he said.
Specifically, the transportation bill will contain language from the Restore Act. Under it, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas will share the bulk of any fine money levied against BP to restore their coastlines and help coastal communities. The fines would stem from BP's role in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
More than one-third of any fines will be allocated directly and equally to the five Gulf Coast states largely for economic recovery. Under Florida law, 75 percent of the state's share will go to the eight most affected Panhandle counties and 25 percent will be available for other Gulf counties.
The House and Senate aim to pass the broader bill by Friday. It also is likely to contain a provision to extend lower student loan rates for another year.