Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Texas Got Millions From BP, But Lawmakers Didn’t Know Until Now

Oil boom barriers that were expected to stop the spread of oil lie washed up on the beach after heavy swells and winds hit the coast of Louisiana on April 30, 2010.

Photo by AFP/Getty Images

Oil boom barriers that were expected to stop the spread of oil lie washed up on the beach after heavy swells and winds hit the coast of Louisiana on April 30, 2010.

If $5 million falls into Texas’ lap in the wake of a massive oil spill, does it make a sound? That question was on the minds of lawmakers at the Capitol this week as they held a hearing to look into how the state will manage funds from the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst accidental oil spill in history.

Turns out that a few months after the spill, in September 2010, BP gave $5 million to Texas Governor Rick Perry’s office to cover damage from the spill. State lawmakers say they didn’t know about it until this week, and none of the money has been spent. In fact, the state’s made a cool $20,000 in interest while sitting on the funds.

Last year, Perry allocated $1 million of the money to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). “It was a gift given to the state of Texas by BP to the Governor’s office after the spill,” TCEQ commissioner Toby Baker told lawmakers.

Veronica Zaragovia of KUT has more:

“All together, BP gave $5 million to Gov. Perry’s office in September 2010.  The Attorney General’s office, the Texas Comptroller’s office and the Governor’s office were all involved in the conversation with BP, but Rep. Martinez Fisher says lawmakers should have been in on it.

“While we’re here to talk about the inner workings between what’s going to happen in the future between Appropriations and Natural Resources, I’m very troubled knowing that a $5 million transaction occurred in the state of Texas and no one had the common courtesy to let the Texas Legislature know what was going on,” Martinez Fischer says.

Lawmakers met this week to discuss how much the state can go after in restoration funds as BP takes its case fighting settlements all the way to the Supreme Court. Turns out Texas has been sitting on millions of dollars already.

More from the Texas Energy Report:

“The committee chairs Reps. Drew Darby and Alan Ritter, respectively, held the hearing on how much Texas can expect to recover in spill damages Wednesday, the same day BP announced plans to appeal an oil spill payment ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The company said it fears that making payments unrelated to the spill could push an estimated $9.2 billion settlement cost significantly higher.

Nearly four years after the disaster that killed 11 people, the only money the state has actually received is from the little-known $5-million restoration grant from BP,Commissioner Toby Baker of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) told lawmakers.”

Texas is supposed to get $100 million from BP in an earlier agreement with the five states directly affected by the spill*, but those funds have been slowly trickling in, and environmental groups are concerned the money won’t go where it’s needed. Some of the proposed projects include artificial reefs and upgraded restrooms at state parks.

Veronica Zaragovia of KUT News contributed reporting.

*This article has been updated to clarify a source of restoration funds.


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