State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan said Friday he is becoming "more comfortable" with the possible role that Florida's public and private universities will play in oil spill research funded by BP following an announcement by the company this week.
The company said in May that it was providing $500 million for research into the oil spill that began after the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank in April. Florida initially received $10 million but the process of issuing more research grants halted in June after the White House told BP to work with all Gulf states in coordinating and funding the research.
Brogan told the Florida Tribune last month that the state wasn't sure who to approach about the research money. Gov. Charlie Crist in July had submitted to BP a request for $100 million on behalf of the Florida Institute of Oceanography. FIO is a collaboration of 20 public and private universities and research institutions state agencies.
On Wednesday, BP announced that the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, a partnership of the five Gulf states including Florida, will administer the research program. A board of scientists appointed equally by BP and the Alliance will oversee the program, called the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.
The research, BP said, will address these five themes: The distribution and fate of contaminants, their chemical evolution and biological degradation, environmental effects and ecosystem recovery, technology developments and human health.
The independent scientific research, BP said, will be conducted at academic institutions primarily in Gulf states. However, "appropriate partnerships" with institutions outside the region also will be welcome, BP said.
Brogan said last month that Florida institutions were well-situated to play a leading role. And he said researchers in Florida had launched their efforts to track the spill and its effects immediately after it began even before the state received the $10 million from BP.
On Friday, Brogan said he's happy that the state is working with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. "Florida has been a long-term partner in that regard," he said.
But he added, "We are still waiting to see the detail in all of this -- how much money the effort will bring, how that money will be distributed and the actual governing logistics as to how all this plays out."
Paul Johnson of the Reef Relief environmental group said Friday the coral reefs in the Florida Keys have not suffered yet from the spill. But with so much oil remaining unaccounted for, research and monitoring must continue.
"I don't think anybody knows where it is and what's going on right now," he said. "We need research to track that."
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