State lawmakers looking to discuss plan for BP settlement

Published: Jul. 8, 2015 at 5:51 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2015 at 9:55 PM CDT
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LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - More than $2 billion in BP settlement money will be landing in the hands of state leaders soon. Two state lawmakers held a meeting Wednesday in Long Beach to discuss the latest happenings in Jackson and WLOX was there to find out what the current plans are for the BP funds.

Representatives Carolyn Crawford and Richard Bennett both call the coast home. So, when the oil spill happened, they practically had a front row view. Now that money is coming in from the settlement, they're taking it step by step.

"We're going to work very closely as a delegation to get more information," said Crawford.

"There's no doubt it's going to be a fight," said Bennett.

A fight to bring the money where they both say it's needed most - the Gulf Coast. Bennett said although he wishes it could all be delegated to the three coastal counties, that's simply not going to happen. He said the loss of revenue that the state suffered in the time after the spill will go back into the general fund. It's the other funds that he and other lawmakers are fighting for.

"The sales tax that we've been rebated back to the coast. We want that money, we want to make sure that it stays here," said Bennett.

According to Bennett, he and Crawford aren't the only ones on this side of the fence. He said Governor Bryant has expressed his commitment to our area.

"So we need to hold his feet to the fire and make sure that money does come to the coast and benefit us," said Bennett.

The meeting room at the USM Gulf Park Campus was full of representatives from all across the coast. Among them, Doctor Moby Solangi from the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies. He said he hopes to see the money be used for conservation efforts.

"Restoration, recovery, environmental issues. These are the things that will keep us sustaining," said Solangi.

Renee Areng, with the Coast Visitors Bureau, agreed and said that another area needing help is tourism. She hopes to see the coast come together to fight for the money that she says belongs here.

"I think the important message is that there's a lot of noise out there promoting other destinations and other things and we should unify as the MS Gulf Coast and have one voice," said Areng.

Representative Bennett said the legislators from the three coastal counties are meeting as a coastal delegation sometime next week to hash out some details about the funds.

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