The U.S. Senate yesterday passed the Gulf RESTORE Act, a piece of legislation that would dedicate 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines for the gulf oil disaster toward restoring the gulf ecosystem and economy.

Environmental groups hailed the Senate’s vote in a statement released late yesterday.

“The Senate’s overwhelming vote in favor of the RESTORE Act reflects the broad nationwide support for revitalizing the Gulf Coast region by ensuring the bulk of the money collected in spill fines is spent in the area that suffered so much harm,” said a joint statement issued by Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy and Oxfam America.

“Faith leaders, conservationists and sportsmen, and strong majorities of voters from all sides of the political spectrum in Gulf states and across the nation agree that it just makes sense for the fines from the Gulf spill to come back to help repair the damage that has been done to the economy and the environment,” the groups added.

The bill was approved following a last-minute compromise, which provided $1.4 billion for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

That compromise led Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. to vote against the measure, which he initially supported.

Via the Times-Picayune: 

Rubio objected to diverting some of the fine money to the Land and Conservation Fund, and also the decision to offset the cost of the measure – coincidentally pegged at $1.4 billion – by delaying a scheduled change in interest rate tax calculations for business investments abroad.

“What started as a genuine bipartisan effort to dedicate as much BP fine money as possible towards Gulf Coast restoration has now turned into a raw deal that increases taxes, creates a new environmental bureaucracy, and could steer money to places like the Great Lakes and West coast that had nothing to with the oil spill,” Rubio said.

The Senate’s approval of the RESTORE Act follows the House’s recent approval of an amendment by the same name, which also affirms the principle that the penalties for the Gulf oil spill belong in the Gulf for restoration.

“The next step is for the House and Senate to resolve the differences between these two amendments in conference and enact RESTORE into law to bring this victory home for the Gulf region,” said the groups supporting the act. “We look forward to working with House, Senate and Gulf Coast leaders to make RESTORE reality to support the restoration needs of this critical ecosystem and its vulnerable communities.”

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