Lawsuit: Oil Spill Funds Used for Gulf Hotels

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Lousiana Gulf Coast, by flickr user dusted, licensed by Creative Commons

Stronger than the storm

Adding fuel to the fire is never something BP wants to do after the Gulf Coast disaster in 2010. Environmentalists have filed a lawsuit and are attempting to block the building of new hotels in Florida & Alabama with funds granted to restore the coast itself. BP had pledged $1 billion to improve the coastline after the infamous oil rig explosion, and have continued to fund the project. Now, scientists state that the money should only be used for ecological purposes, not for real estate development (regardless of the fact that new hotels could produce new revenue along the coast). This has sparked a hot debate about the strength of economics vs biological and scientific research.

About $60 million had been set aside to construct the hotels & conference centers, and it was unclear what the money had been specified for. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has stated that damage to the fish, coral, flora, and fauna is still being handled on a case by case situation. Ecologists want to take more of the $18 billion pledged to the project for more analysis and preservation of nature. They stand firm behind the argument that no hotels or beach lodges were damaged by the oil spill, therefore none of the money should go to repairing or redesigning them. Both sides remain vigilant and are most likely headed towards a million dollar settlement.

It seems as if both sides have a decent argument in this situation. Truthfully, if $18 billion has been promised to the campaign, allotting less than $100 million to hotel projects can not be that much of a concession. Even if that $60 million is taken out of the currently pledged amount ($1 billion), the ROI on new hotels, restaurants, etc should begin to pump money back into the Gulf Coast region. Cities like Biloxi, MS and New Orleans are already big moneymakers as they provide a unique destination for tourists, as well as providing restaurants, attractions, and places to stay. At the end of the day, the right people need to be in place to make sure the money gets appropriated properly; here’s hoping there is a sensible resolution here.