Today’s BP settlement is great news for the Gulf Coast economy, which still suffers mightily from the damage BP and its contractors caused. The President and his Department of Justice deserve credit for hammering out this deal, and keeping their focus on the victims of what the President rightly calls the "worst environmental disaster America has ever faced."
If the settlement is to have the impact on the region that we all hope it will, we’ll need to be sure that the money is well spent, not siphoned off for political favors or otherwise misused.
It’s important to remember that this money will flow to the region, and not simply into federal coffers, as a result of a hard-won battle to pass the RESTORE Act. That law is applicable only to this spill, so were another catastrophe of this sort to occur, God forbid, there’s no guarantee that civil penalties would end up going to the states and people that were harmed.
Finally, a word of caution: $18 billion is a lot of money, but the damage this spill caused was similarly vast. Workers died, livelihoods were lost, and the impact on the ecosystem was and remains enormous. The hard truth is that $18 billion may never cover all the damage done. So let’s hope that one thing this $18 billion buys is greater commitment on the part of oil companies and those who regulate their drilling to be better stewards of the Gulf.