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Senator Bill Nelson’s Response to Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico

Dear Mrs. Dixey:

     Thank you for contacting me regarding ongoing plans for restoration of the Gulf Coast one year after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  As we reflect on the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, we remember the eleven Americans who lost their lives and the devastation the subsequent oil spill has wreaked on the Gulf Coast environment and its communities.

     As you may know, I have opposed drilling off Florida for a long time now.  There just isn’t enough oil in the eastern Gulf to justify risking our shores, our natural resources, and the many industries that rely on our coasts and waters and the military testing and training area off the Gulf.  

     Shortly after the spill, I joined Senators Lautenberg and Menendez to introduce legislation that would lift the cap on oil companies’ liability in spills from $75 million to $10 billion. 

     Most recently, I introduced the Gulf of Mexico Recovery, Restoration, and Resiliency Act, S.862.  The Act would provide a comprehensive plan to develop and restore the Gulf of Mexico’s economy and environment. The Act would dedicate 100% of the Clean Water Act penalties assessed to BP for ecosystem restoration and research, job and workforce development, and tourism promotion. It would also create the Gulf of Mexico Recovery Council to develop a comprehensive recovery plan and also oversee an Observation System and a Fishery Endowment to ensure long-term cooperative monitoring among fisherman, scientists, and citizens. Lastly, a Citizens Advisory Committee and Scientific Advisory Committee would be created to provide input on the direction of Gulf restoration activities.

     On the economic recovery front, as the designated responsible party in the spill, BP established and funded the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) to handle claims of economic damage due to the spill.  At a recent Senate committee hearing, I questioned the head of the GCCF—Kenneth Feinberg—about the process for reviewing and settling claims. When he was appointed to the post, Feinberg promised the process would be open, quick, and independent of BP.  But we’ve since learned there’s very little independence.  And I’ve been hearing from way too many people who say they can’t get their claims paid in a timely fashion.  I wrote the Administration to demand an investigation into the GCCF and its methods, and I won’t rest until this process becomes more transparent and efficient.  Meantime, if you or someone you know is having difficulty with a claim, please call my Orlando office toll-free at 888-671-4091.

     It is my hope and my belief that by the passage of time, the hard work and dedication of individuals, and the power of Mother Nature, the Gulf Coast will recover.  Please do not hesitate to contact my office again.    

                                   Sincerely,

                                   Senator Bill Nelson

P.S. From time to time, I compile electronic news briefs highlighting key issues and hot topics of particular importance to Floridians.  If you’d like to receive these e-briefs, visit my Web site and sign up for them at http://billnelson.senate.gov/news/ebriefs.cfm

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