Given the “me first” attitude of the Alabama Legislature and general failure of leadership within every branch of the state government, it should have been obvious that the two coastal counties had “no chance” of being compensated for the damages perpetrated by BP. As much as it pains me to say it, BP’s post-spill behavior in many ways was more fair and evenhanded than that of the Alabama Legislature.
It was a foregone conclusion that the criminal portion of the settlement was going to be fought over within the state. The federal law largely establishes that the punitive monies were free of much, if any, restrictions on how that was to be allocated. In other words, it was up for grabs and the Legislature and administration are better at grabbing money where they can find it than they are at solving problems at the front end.
The fallacy inherent in borrowing money and depending on windfall bounty to repay it is painfully obvious. Nevertheless, the law clearly permits and may even encourage irresponsible fiscal policy. God forbid we have to depend on catastrophes, natural and manmade, to operate the state from now on!
The BP oil spill clearly demonstrated the dependence of the economy on a healthy, attractive and productive environment. Our quality of life, about which we constantly talk, is way more dependent on a healthy ecosystem than we had thought. It’s in our pocketbooks just as much as pictures of downtown Fairhope, historic Mobile and memories of growing up in the delta.
So the recent political allocation decisions are quite legal whether we, on the coast, like it or not. The negative impacts on the economy were major, demonstrable and exacerbated by public fears fed by the media, particularly the so-called “social media.”
The environmental impacts were greatest at “ground zero” in Southwest Louisiana and lessened the farther east you went, but no tar ball went unreported and coastal tourism in Alabama crashed completely. Given the raiding of the settlement by the non-coastal counties is terrible, the greater insult was the early decision of the Legislature to use the NRDA [Natural Resource Damage Assessment] funds for the rebuild and expansion of the Gulf State Park! This is a worthy project for the criminal settlement but inappropriate for the NRDA funding, which is clearly dedicated by the law to environmental restoration — not economic stimulus.
The state effectively argued that the economic loss was allowed under the NRDA language. This was a semantic stretch but accepted by the feds who didn’t have the backbone to stand up to the “wounded” state. As a result the coast was raped early and now again! Kind of reminds you of a version of “vote early and often!” We have often opined that the Florida panhandle should be part of Alabama. Maybe we need to investigate an annexation by Florida.