Image courtesy of Gulf Restoration Network.

An environmentalist group is suing federal agencies for granting $60 million from the Deepwater Horizon spill fund to build a hotel and convention center on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

The Gulf Restoration Network filed suit against the Interior Department and other federal agencies to stop construction of the projects, arguing that money from the spill fund should only be use for environmental restoration and related projects.

The lawsuit, filed in October, claims the government did not provide enough data on the benefits or impact of the developments.

The money was granted from the first $1 billion in cleanup funding BP released in April 2011.

The fund’s trustees reduced BP’s liability for natural resource damages by about $117 million, or about twice the value of the project, when the funds were approved.

Gulf Restoration claims the trustees did not provide enough information outlining their reason for the liability reduction.

Alabama officials plan to use the bulk of money granted so far to restore recreational areas, NPR said.

“Sure, we could try to spend that on some more quote-unquote environmental projects, but we chose to do it on what we did because we think it’s the right thing to do,” Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources commissioner Gunter Guy said.

Environmentalist claim using the funds on projects other than environmental restoration is a breach of public trust.

“There were no oiled convention centers,” Gulf Restoration Network analyst Jordan Macha told NPR.

BP has not commented on the case.

A hearing date has not been set yet.

In September, a federal judge ruled that BP was “grossly negligent” for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout that killed 11 people and caused the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

BP could face up to $18 billion in penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act.

The penalty phase of the Deepwater trial will begin in January.

BP has earmarked $42 billion to pay for cleanup costs.

So far, the company has paid about $28 billion for cleanup, penalties, fines and compensation.


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