Ducks Unlimited chief executive Dale Hall said the foundation’s management of these funds “is good news for the people and wildlife of the Gulf Coast.”
Trandahl, a former GOP Hill staffer who served as Clerk of the House before leaving to head the foundation in 2005, said he does not apologize for soliciting donations from corporations whose activities are connected to environmental degradation.
A source says oil giant BP has agreed to pay the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history, totaling billions of dollars, for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
While the technology required to drill — and cap — an oil well in deep water can be mind-boggling, cleaning up the spill required mostly tedious manual labor.
“Sometimes those companies that have the greatest issues are the ones I’m going after because they are doing harm to the environment, and I think they have the obligation to give back,” he said.
BP spokesman Scott Dean declined to comment on the matter Friday.
The money BP will hand over in the course of five years has strings: The Justice Department, which made the decision to put the foundation in charge of the money, included language in the settlement agreement regarding how it will be spent. Half will go to restoring Louisiana’s barrier islands and coastal habitat; the other half will be divided among Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Texas, with the first three states getting equal shares and Texas 16 percent.
“There are tight restrictions around the money,” said Timothy DiCintio, who handles what the foundation receives from legal settlements.
While the group has received money from state and federal criminal cases before, the largest sum it had received before Thursday was about $13 million. Still, it can disburse funds relatively quickly: Upon receiving $5 million from BP on June 20, 2010, less than two months after Deepwater Horizon exploded, the foundation committed it all within a month.
Kert Davies, research director for Greenpeace U.S., said that while the group has done helpful restoration work, it also appears to be “a safe place for corporations to give their money because they’re not going to criticize corporations.”
Shell spokesman Bill Tanner, whose group gives $1 million a year to the foundation, said it has focused on marine habitat projects in the gulf as well as in Alaska’s North Slope and North Aleutian Basin.
“It’s the most important conservation group no one’s ever heard of,” said George Cooper, who specializes in conservation issues as a senior vice president for the lobbying firm Forbes-Tate.