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Senators lobbying House to pass BP oil spill bill

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) are hoping the House of Representatives will look favorably on “overwhelming” Senate support for legislation that will direct fines from the BP oil spill to Mississippi and other Gulf Coast states.

The Senate yesterday approved (74-22) the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (S.1813 or MAP-21), a two-year surface transportation reauthorization bill that includes provisions of the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act. Those provisions address post-oil spill ecological and economic recovery needs in Gulf Coast states.

MAP-21 may next be considered by the House of Representatives. The Senate and House are attempting to pass a new highway reauthorization bill before the latest short-term extension of federal highway programs expires on March 31.

“The nation needs an extended highway bill, and Gulf Coast states need assurance that Congress will allow them to have resources to recover from the oil spill,” Cochran said.

The Senate March 8 voted 76-22 to add the RESTORE Act to the highway bill.

Like the original bill cosponsored by Cochran and Wicker, the Senate’s RESTORE Act amendment follows the recommendations from Gulf Coast restoration groups and establishes a Gulf Coast Restoration Fund to provide Gulf Coast states — Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Texas — with 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines related to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.

The remaining 20 percent of the fines paid by BP and other parties held responsible for the April 2010 oil spill would be directed to the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

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