According to a Reuters
report, the letter, which was signed late on Friday by Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, and Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, stated:
"Circumventing the will of Congress by short changing the RESTORE Act is wholly unacceptable to us. We urge you to reject such an approach. We urge you to negotiate a robust settlement that does not achieve a higher amount under one of these statutes at the expense of the other."
The U.S. Justice Department and BP have had discussions regarding the potential of a damages settlement due to the oil spill that wreaked havoc on Gulf of Mexico wildlife and gulf coast states. Any settlement could be worth billions of dollars to states still trying to recover from the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Although details of the settlement discussions are not being released, both Democratic and Republican senators from the region are saying they have "grave concerns about developments of the settlement terms," the Huffington Post
reports. According to the report, senators are upset about recent press reports stating the Justice Department and BP are discussing settlement terms that would maximize penalties to be paid under Natural Resource Damage assessments, and minimize those paid under the Clean Water Act.
The RESTORE Act
, which was signed into law by President Obama in July, directs 80 percent of all Clean Water Act fines paid by BP and other responsible parties go to those states impacted by the spill so a comprehensive ecosystem restoration plan can be implemented.
Senators are concerned that with fines under the Clean Water Act reportedly being kept to a minimum, desperately needed funds to help restore the region will be minimal.
The Huffington Post
states any settlement with a focus on Natural Resources Damages, which would fall under the Oil Pollution Act, are treated more favorably by the U.S. tax code than are Clean Water Act fines, making the settlement more attractive to BP.
Alabama Republican senator Jo Bonner told Reuters
"Not only would the federal government have final say as to what qualified as environmental damage but BP, who is responsible for this, would also get a tax deduction that could write off millions. The audacity of giving BP a tax write-off."