WASHINGTON — Three years after the BP oil spill ravaged the Gulf Coast in the nation's worst environmental disaster, federal officials and coastal communities say the pace of government-sponsored recovery efforts is slowly starting to pick up.
Billions in civil fines paid by BP remain undistributed as lawyers wrangle in court. States are still drawing up priority lists of projects for funding. And a total damage assessment of the spill that spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf over 84 days is at least two years away.
But key elements of the RESTORE Act, which directs as much as $21 billion in BP fine money to the five Gulf Coast states, are beginning to take shape, according to witnesses at a hearing Thursday before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Under a plea agreement reached earlier this year, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation received more than $2.5 billion in oil spill money to pay for environmental mitigation projects over the next several years.
Half of the money will be spent in Louisiana, which suffered the most damage. Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, would get 14 percent of the funds, while Texas would get 8 percent.
More recently, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees, one of three groups overseeing distribution of funds, announced it would spend up to $600 million of the $1 billion BP has agreed to provide for restoration efforts.
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