The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly voted Thursday in favor of returning 80 percent of the fines to be collected from BP for the 2010 Gulf oil spill to the five states whose waters, wildlife and ecosystems were damaged by the flow of 5 million barrels of oil.
The Senate action follows a recent House vote of a downsized version of the bill as lawmakers race to put the mechanism in place before the Department of Justice reaches a settlement with BP. Without the provision, the estimated $5 billion to $20 billion in federal fines will revert to the U.S. Treasury.
The lopsided 76-22 Senate vote was the result of a strong bipartisan effort led by Senate Democrats Bill Nelson of Florida and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, as well as Mississippi Republicans Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker. The only one of the 10 Gulf-state senators to vote against the bill was Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who felt the bill deviated from the initial bill he had supported.