This story originally appeared on KUT News.
Texas will receive more than $750 million of the $20 billion BP oil spill settlement announced this week. The state will use some of that money to prepare for future disasters in the Gulf of Mexico.
Five years ago, oil was still pouring into the Gulf after an offshore rig exploded, killing 11 people and causing the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Florida State University oceanographer Ian McDonald, like a lot of researchers, felt frustrated at the time that civilian experts weren’t being included in the government’s emergency response.
“There’s a terrific brain trust of academics and professionals in the Gulf Coast region, and there are none of them that are not prepared at any time to go and try to fight this thing,” McDonald said.
Some researchers in Texas are now working to answer those concerns. Texas A&M’s Dr. Larry McKinney leads “Texas One Gulf,” a group of research institutes. He says part of the BP settlement money that group receives will go to coordinate between government and academic scientists.
“So in the future when we have oil spills or hurricanes or whatever, and those emergency responders like the Coast Guard or the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are out in the field, they can very quickly get an expert that they need, and our equipment. ‘Cause we have a lot of equipment,” McKinney says.
He expects the settlement to bring in an additional $7 to $12 million. Other “Texas One Gulf” projects include studying the growth of “dead zones” where oxygen is depleted in the ocean water, and compiling what he calls a health “report card” for the Gulf.
Officials announced the settlement agreement today. The funds will be distributed among Texas and four other states: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. According to the official statement from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the $20.2 billion will cover the following:
“The total value of the settlement will be $20.2 billion. Under the agreement, BP will pay $5.5 billion in federal Clean Water Act (CWA) civil penalties, $8.8 billion in natural resource damages (NRD), $4.9 billion in economic damages to the five Gulf states, and up to $1 billion in economic damages to local governmental entities within the Gulf states. These figures include interest.”
Texas’ share will total $788 million, and when combined with money from previous settlements, the state will ultimately receive more than $1 billion to put toward coastal restoration and disaster preparedness.
Paxton calls the settlement “an important milestone in the ongoing recovery of the Gulf Coast.”