A bipartisan group of legislators has come together to form the new House Gulf Coast Caucus. The group of eleven lawmakers from the Gulf Coast region is co-chaired by Reps. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Kathy Castor (D-FL). The group met for the first time during the last week of May to discuss how best to secure Clean Water Act penalty money for the Gulf of Mexico region. Currently in the House of Representatives, there are several legislative proposals aimed at directing the billions of dollars BP is expected to pay in penalties as a result of last summer's oil spill. Gulf Coast lawmakers are concerned that unless they act, the penalty money — potentially billions of dollars, given the size of the spill — will flow into the U.S. Treasury and be spent elsewhere.
In addition to dedicating oil spill fines to Gulf restoration, the newly-created caucus will be busy dealing with a host of Gulf-related issues. Hurricanes, last summer's oil spill and the effects of offshore oil drilling are all topics the caucus is sure to discuss. Additionally, the group will be advocating for ecological restoration in areas such as the Florida Everglades, as well as the Mississippi River Delta.