Oil spill fund put in lo­cal hands

Gov­er­nors of Gulf Coast states will man­age the $500 mil­lion for re­search.

Los Angeles Times - - 9• 30•10 - Neela Banerjee re­port­ing from washington nbaner­jee@tribune.com

BP and the gov­er­nors of the five Gulf Coast states an­nounced plans Wed­nes­day to fun­nel a promised $500 mil­lion in re­search funds through an or­ga­ni­za­tion run by the gov­er­nors, not the nation’s sci­en­tific com­mu­nity.

As word leaked out be­fore the an­nounce­ment that politi­cians would have con­sid­er­able con­trol over the BP re­search money, sci­en­tists voiced fears that most of the grants would be doled out to in­sti­tu­tions in the gov­er­nors’ home states, rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of pork-bar­rel projects.

The an­nounce­ment sought to al­lay such con­cerns: “In­de­pen­dent sci­en­tific re­search will be con­ducted at aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions pri­mar­ily in the U.S. Gulf Coast states. How­ever, ap­pro­pri­ate part­ner­ships with in­sti­tu­tions based out­side the U.S. gulf re­gion will be wel­come.”

It re­mains un­clear if re­search or­ga­ni­za­tions out­side the Gulf Coast, such as the Woods Hole Oceano­graphic In­sti­tu­tion in Mas­sachusetts and the Scripps In­sti­tu­tion of Oceanog­ra­phy in Cal­i­for­nia, will be per­mit­ted to ap­ply for grants on their own or will have to link up with lo­cal sci­en­tists.

The fund, called the Gulf of Mex­ico Re­search Ini­tia­tive, will be ad­min­is­tered by a coali­tion of the gov­er­nors of Texas, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi, Alabama and Florida to study the en­vi­ron­men­tal and health ef­fects of the BP oil spill. All grant ap­pli­ca­tions will un­dergo a peer-re­view process, BP and the gov­er­nors’ group said.

The re­search ini­tia­tive will fo­cus on five ma­jor ar­eas, in­clud­ing the study of chem­i­cal dis­per­sants used to break up the oil, the ef­fects of the spill on gulf ecosys­tems and the study of tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments that could aid in fu­ture off­shore spill re­sponse.

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