The BP spill was a colossal disaster; there's no doubt about that. Precisely how big a disaster it was, however, still remains largely to be determined. Scientists and conservationists are ardently at work to uncover how deeply the catastrophe damaged the ecosystems across the Gulf of Mexico. But there's no doubt about this: The impact was extensive. Coastline, beaches, and other natural habitats were soaked in oil (as well as bombarded by chemical dispersants), and the efforts that will inevitably be necessary to attempt to restore them will be expensive indeed.
But an interesting thing might happen, barring Congressional action--the money the federal government collects from BP as punitive fines may simply be absorbed into its coffers.The Sacramento Bee reports:
In late September, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act, (S. 1400), co-authored by Senators Nelson and Rubio. It would dedicate 80 percent of the estimated $5-$21 billion in expected fines for the BP oil spill to restoring the Gulf ecosystem and economy. The House version of the bill, (H.R. 3096), is co-sponsored by nine Florida House members ...Thankfully, support for RESTORE is broad and bipartisan. 84% of Florida voters back the bill, and its Congressional backers are both Republican and Democrat.
However, if Congress fails to pass the RESTORE Act, the spill fines will be used for unrelated federal spending or to reduce the federal deficit.
Interestingly, 84% of Florida Tea Partiers support using the funds to sponsor Gulf restoration; that's more than the 83% of Democrats.