Senators from Gulf Coast states have introduced a bill that would require that at least 80% of BP’s penalties paid under the Clean Water Act in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill go toward environmental cleanup and economic restoration of the Gulf.

The legislation, introduced July 21 by a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), is in step with the recommendations of the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill made earlier this year, which called for 80% of the penalties paid under the Clean Water Act go toward coastal and environmental restoration of the Gulf, and a report from the Gulf Coast Restoration Task Force, which asked Congress to dedicate a significant amount of civil Clean Water Act penalties to the Gulf Coast cleanup.

According to the bill’s sponsors, the legislation would provide needed resources to Gulf Coast states to start recovery immediately and establish a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and a comprehensive plan for the Gulf Coast.

In a press briefing with reporters, Landrieu estimated that the pot of money that would be available for restoration of the Gulf could range from $5.4 billion to $21.1 billion, depending on the penalties levied on BP and other responsible parties. Even the lower number would significantly benefit environmental contractors who want to work in the Gulf region.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said she hopes to fast-track the legislation. She said she hopes to have her committee mark up the bill within the next two weeks.

Landrieu added that there is support for the measure in the House, although negotiations in the other chamber are not as far along as in the Senate. “I anticipate that this will be well-received [in the House]…I see no indications that the bill will be seen as dead-on-arrival” she said.