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BP research funds to be handled by gulf governors

To the disappointment of the scientific community, the $500 million will be distributed by an organization run by the governors.

September 30, 2010|By Neela Banerjee, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — 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.

nbanerjee@tribune.com

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