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NEXT STEP WITH RESTORE Florida counties, including Sarasota, are hoping to reap benefits from the BP fund established to assist communities affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons COUNTY VOTES TO HAVE SAY IN HOW BP OIL SPILL FINE MONEY IS SPENT By Cooper Levey-Baker Associate Editor The Sarasota County Commission this week moved unanimously to join a coalition of Gulf Coast counties affected by the 2010 Deepwa- ter Horizon oil spill, giving the county a say in how Florida's chunk of BP's federal penalties will be spent. The money is being made available through Congress' RESTORE Act, a bipartisan law that directs the federal government to distribute any fines paid by BP into a variety of pots. The Clean Water Act penalties — which could total anywhere from $5 billion to $20 billion — will be divvied up into a spill liability trust fund, scientific research, competitive federal grants, state-level lump sums and direct pay- ments to affected counties. Sarasota County will receive a direct county payment, but with its vote during the Tues- day, Oct. 9, regular commission meeting, it is also now a member of a 23-county Florida consortium, which will oversee how the pot of state money will be distributed. The coun- ty is considered a "non-disproportionately af- fected" county, because while the 2010 spill harmed the local economy, Sarasota County was not "directly" affected "by oil product," in the words of County Coastal Resources Man- ager Laird Wreford.

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