Don’t squander oil spill settlement funds

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 9, 2015

Horrible things happened on April 20, 2010, deep in the Gulf of Mexico.

International oil giant BP made huge blunders that led to a catastrophic and deadly failure we now know as the Deepwater Horizon Macondo oil drilling disaster.

Last week, the company agreed to an approximately $19 billion settlement with Southern states whose shorelines were affected by the spill.

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Mississippi’s share of that settlement, including the funds already provided prior to the settlement will total approximately $2.2 billion.

The $1.5 billion remaining will be paid over the next 17 years. Approximately half of what’s to be paid will be earmarked for environmental restoration, projects, research and the like.

The rest, approximately $750 million in total, will be spent at the discretion of the Mississippi Legislature.

We urge lawmakers to first realize this money came from a horrible disaster, one that claimed 11 lives, four of whom were Mississippians, and untold environmental damage. Mississippi should not allow this settlement money to be wasted, but instead invested in a manner that can properly honor those four men who gave their lives. Money cannot replace them, but wise use of it may allow others to be benefit from their sacrifice.

In nearly any such case, anyone can dream up a million different possible ways to invest those funds. The key is finding a use that fits best. Perhaps that may be in a way to invest in the children of Mississippi. Setting up a scholarship program for children of oilfield workers who seek to attend state universities, or perhaps those in the seafood industry, might be such a good use.

Regardless of the specific use, the key will be investing the funds, not merely absorbing them into the state’s budget or squandering them on a small, pet project. Let’s let the money actually make a meaningful difference.