Federal Bill Could Benefit FIO

Fines from BP’s 2010 Gulf spill could mean tens of millions of dollars for Florida marine research.


Sen. Bill Nelson addresses the media Thursday, flanked by (l-r) USF President Judy Genshaft, FIO Director Bill Hogarth and USF College of Marine Science Dean Jackie Dixon. Photo: Vickie Chachere | USF News


By Vickie Chachere

USF News


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (July 5, 2012) – When President Obama signs the federal highway bill on Friday – which includes provisions directing the spending of fines from the 2010 BP oil spill – the Florida Institute of Oceanography will stand to receive tens of millions of dollars in money set aside for research in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Thursday.


Appearing at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science with USF President Judy Genshaft, Nelson said legislative language within the RESTORE Act – which became part of the much larger highway bill passed by Congress last week – directs money designated for scientific research in Florida to the FIO. The institute is a consortium of public and private marine research colleges and institutes that includes Florida’s public universities. USF is the host institution for the FIO.


Federal officials and oil giant BP are in the midst of negotiating fines from the massive spill that dumped some 5 million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The RESTORE Act directs 80 percent of the BP fines back to communities in the five Gulf states; estimates of the fines BP might pay range from $5 billion to $20 billion.


Additionally, Nelson said, money from the RESTORE Act will be set aside to support science in fisheries and Florida scientists will be eligible for additional resources that may amount to as much as $200 million.


“This is the way it ought to be,” Nelson said. “When a major ecological disaster occurs … that’s where the money ought to come back.”


Nelson told reporters that FIO could receive approximately $50 million to fund future research in the Gulf, but that number is contingent on the amount of overall settlement and a formula set out in the RESTORE Act of divvying up the money as it flows back to the Gulf states. FIO was one of the first scientific research organizations to receive funding in the wake of the spill with $10 million, which funded two-years of studies on the impact of oil and dispersants on the complex Gulf ecosystem.


Since then, the 27-member organization also is a partner to on-going research on the spill led by USF which will be unfolding over the next three years. FIO-led research has examined the full spectrum of the spill, from developing better tools to predict the trajectory of the oil in the Gulf’s currents to its impact on all levels of the food web.


FIO Director Bill Hogarth called the RESTORE Act a “historic moment” for the Gulf, considered one of the most under-funded and under-studied bodies of water in the world.


“This will allow us to do in the Gulf what needs to be done,” Hogarth said.


Genshaft thanked the senator and Florida’s congressional delegation for the continued commitment to supporting science in the Gulf and advocating for restoration efforts based on research.


“For four decades, FIO has pooled resources and talent to serve Florida’s best interest and to support and enhance marine science education,” Genshaft said. “This is so important in a state whose future is tied to the health of its environment, particularly the Gulf of Mexico.”


For more information on the Florida Institute of Oceanography and research conducted on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, visit fio.usf.edu.


Vickie Chachere can be reached at 813-974-6251.