Commentary: BP's money should be used to restore Gulf's economy, environment

Government scientists now claim that they were suppressed -- perhaps by the White House -- from publicly stating the worst-case scenario about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But no one is stopping them now from declaring the spill the worst man-made environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Some have decreed that the scientists' worst-case scenario somehow was avoided. Oil-eating bacteria and the relatively high temperatures of Gulf waters contributed to the breakdown of much of the oil, they say.

But those millions of barrels of oil didn't simply disappear. Researchers recently found a huge oil plume near the bottom of a deeper section of the Gulf, some of it already embedded in the sandy bottom.

In other words, the full extent of the effects of the spill -- to the water, the marshy wetlands and particularly the marine life -- may not be known for decades. And meanwhile, those who depend on the Gulf for a living will suffer.

On Sept. 28, an advisory group appointed by President Obama said that the billions of dollars in penalties that the federal government is expected to collect from BP for its role in the Deepwater Horizon spill should be used to help restore both the economy and the environment of the Gulf Coast. That, we think, is entirely appropriate.

Under current law, penalties levied against BP and others for violating the Clean Water Act would go into something called the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, to be used for any future oil spills. But the advisory team has urged Congress to pass new laws that would "dedicate a significant amount" of the penalties to Gulf restoration and to help states "jumpstart" their own restoration.

Read more: http://www.heraldonline.com/2010/10/11/2519855/use-money-to-restore-gulf.html#ixzz12AVOEVos