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Sen. Nelson: Tens of Millions to Flow into Florida From Any BP Spill Settlement

President Obama is set to sign a massive transportation bill Friday. It would keep the lion's share of money from a settlement with BP over the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf states. And a lot of that money could be coming to the Tampa Bay area.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson dropped by USF St. Petersburg today to tout the recently-passed RESTORE Act. While that means most of the money from any settlement will stay in the Gulf region, he says potentially tens of millions of dollars could flow to the Florida Institute of Oceanography.

That is a consortium of 27 public and private marine science colleges and research institutes in Florida , based in St. Petersburg - including 11 state universities. Nelson says he had the institute designated as the place where research into the effects of the spill will be based.

"This is the way it ought to be, because when a major ecological disaster occurs where the people are harmed - which are the people and the critters, and the environment of the Gulf - that's where the money ought to come back," he says, "levied against the perpetrator."

USF oceanographer Steve Murawski says there's a real need for more research money. He says there was precious little information on the health of the Gulf prior to the oil spill. So there was no way to know how the spill affected the abundance of marine life.

"So I think the potential for long-term monitoring, in really a legitimate, fully-funded offshore monitoring program, is really a high priority," he says.

Nelson says he expect a settlement between BP and the federal government over the spill to generate fines of from $5 billion to $20 billion.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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