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Piece of the Pie
Democratic State Senator sees oil spill funds as statewide infrastructure opportunity

by Frank Corder
In April 2010, the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico killing eleven workers and discharging an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the water over three months.

Coastal communities responded alongside BP attempting to control the impact of the spill as best as possible on beachfronts and in sensitive ecosystems.

The spill disrupted businesses on the coast, from fishing to restaurants to tourism. The mainstream media coverage didn't help; they portrayed the beaches as unsafe and dirty, negatively impacting much of the spring and summer activities from which so many on the coast derive their living.

Environmental penalties under the Clean Water Act and the Natural Resources Damage Assessment have resulted in BP placing over $42 billion in trust as the company continues to work with the Department of Justice while also entangled in ongoing litigation, a portion of which was upheld Friday in federal court regarding businesses and residents who claim adverse impact from the spill.

In June 2012, Congress passed the RESTORE Act which funnels 80% of BP's fines to the states affected by the oil spill. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, in response, established GoCoast 2020 to begin planning how to best utilize the funds as they become available.

The funds are to be used to remediate economic and environmental damages caused by the oil spill. To date, Mississippi has received some $82 million for projects across the coast.

Now an opportunistic Democratic state senator from north Mississippi wants a piece of the pie.

State Sen. Russell Jolly (D-Senate District 8) who represents Calhoun, Chickasaw, Grenada and Lee counties has filed SB 2226. Jolly wants the Mississippi Legislature to establish a special fund called the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Fund with all funds received by the state, other than directly paid to another public entity, to be appropriated for state and county roads all across Mississippi.

Such spread the wealth attempts were sure to come from areas north of the coast, especially from a Democrat. It's just too hard for them not try and stick their hand in the cookie jar.

Still, last time I checked only three counties in Mississippi bordered the Gulf of Mexico during the oil spill and still do: Hancock, Harrison and Jackson.

While Jolly may view the restoration funds as a windfall in one part of the state that could be applied to an area of need from which the whole state could benefit such as infrastructure improvements, the truth is the very filing of the bill shows both his lack of understanding of the purpose of the funds and a willingness to exploit the coast's misfortune for his own political gain.

But as fellow Democrat Rahm Emanuel said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."


Posted January 13, 2014 - 5:56 am

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