CBSN

Questions still unanswered about Gulf oil spill settlement

MOBILE, Ala. -- Gulf Coast officials worry that their communities won't get their fair share of Alabama's $2.3 billion portion of the BP oil spill settlement.

Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft told AL.com that members of the Gulf Coast Recovery Council have unanswered questions about the settlement.

The plan, which still requires court approval, would give the council control over $599 million, but about half of that spending still would require federal approval. Local officials have a project wish list estimated at about $1.59 billion.

"We really have to start from scratch," Craft said, to figure out how best to spend the money.

The state general fund, meanwhile, is in line for about $1 billion of the state's windfall, drawing protests from officials as high ranking as U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, whose 1st District includes Mobile and Baldwin counties. Byrne has said he wants the money to flow "directly to the Gulf Coast" and not through state coffers in Montgomery.

The agreement was announced July 2 by oil giant BP, the federal government and authorities from five Gulf states affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.

Besides concerns over the distribution, there's also some question over whether Alabama's share actually reaches $2.3 billion, the peak figure offered by Gov. Robert Bentley's office.

Byrne's office has said it could be closer to $1.9 billion. Attorney General Luther Strange has said the number is about $2 billion.

"It seems to be a moving target," Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier told AL.com. "I think the important part of this is (the settlement has been reached), and where will the money eventually end up and who will have the eventual say on where it goes."

The Gulf Coast Recovery Council includes mayors in Mobile, Gulf Shores, Dauphin Island, Orange Beach, Fairhope, and Bayou La Batre; the Baldwin County Commission chairman; Mobile County Commission president; director of the Alabama State Port Authority; and a designee from Bentley's office.