State to get hundreds of millions for restoration - - Jackson, MS

State to get hundreds of millions for restoration

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The oil may be gone from Mississippi's coast line, but the impacts are still lingering and thanks to congressional passage of the RESTORE Act, BP's financial penalties are set to restore the damage.

"They broke it, they're going to pay for it," said Governor Phil Bryant.

Since BP litigation is still ongoing, the exact amount is unknown, but estimates are between $5 and $20 billion to be split up between all of the coastal states. Bryant says it'll be at least January before Mississippi knows what its share will be.

"We believe it will be several hundred million dollars," said Bryant. "It is the intention of this administration to make certain that goes to the Mississippi gulf coast."

While the money can be spent however the state sees fit, in terms of restoration, it won't be decided by lawmakers. Instead, once the money is in place, it will flow from the federal government to whatever projects are decided by an advisory board, appointed by Bryant.

"I want elected leadership on the Mississippi gulf coast deciding how best we might be able to appropriate those dollars," said Bryant.

By using those dollars, it means Mississippi taxpayers won't have to pay for it. If they did, other statewide projects would be put in jeopardy.

"This will save money that the state may have had to expend and extend to the Mississippi gulf coast," said Bryant.

"It gives states more control over how that money is to be spent," said executive director of the Department of Environmental Quality, Trudy Fisher.

Fisher was appointed by Bryant to lead the team in determining recommendations for recovery priorities.

"We do have a unique opportunity with the RESTORE Act to have large sums of money coming into the state that should be put to some extraordinary use that we would not have otherwise had an opportunity to do," said Fisher.

The money will be spent on a range of projects, from job creation and tourism, to environmental studies and renovations. While the direct damage was to the coastal counties, Bryant says the rest of the state felt the economic impact, making restoration a statewide concern.

"We've got to continue that work, particularly with the economic damages and make sure that we've been made whole," said Bryant.

Bryant says the state's waters need to be under observation for at least the next decade due to the oil spill. The RESTORE Act is one of three avenues of recovery for the state. Mississippi is also pursuing economic loss claims and damages under the natural resources damage assessment.

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