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Senate OKs states receiving oil spill funds; Feinberg tenure as administrator ending

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — The Senate has approved using the bulk of water pollution fines stemming from the 2010 Gulf oil spill to pay for restoration in five Gulf states.

The BP oil company could be fined $5.4 billion to $21.1 billion under the Clean Water Act, depending on whether it’s found grossly negligent. The money typically goes into a fund to pay for oil spill cleanup costs and damages. That fund would receive only 20 percent of the total. The rest would be divided equally among Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas.

The measure cleared the Senate 76-22 as part of a larger transportation bill.

Earlier this year, the House passed a similar measure to divert the money. President Barack Obama has also called for disbursing the penalties to the states.

In a related item, a federal judge has signed off on a transition process that relieves Kenneth Feinberg of his duties as administrator of BP’s $20 billion compensation fund for victims of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Today’s order by U.S District Judge Carl Barbier calls for a court-supervised administrator to take over the claims process from the Feinberg-led Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

The move is part of a proposed multibillion-dollar settlement between BP and plaintiffs’ attorneys representing more than 100,000 individuals and businesses.

Barbier appointed Lynn Greer, a Richmond, Va.-based attorney, to fill in for Feinberg during the transition. Patrick Juneau, a Lafayette, La.-based attorney, will take over for Greer and serve as the court-appointed administrator for economic loss claims if Barbier gives preliminary approval to the settlement.

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