Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, has written to BP CEO Tony Hayward urging that the company fulfill its commitment to contribute $500 million to the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. BP announced the pledge last month to support independent research that would assess damage from the oil spill in the Gulf. BP has already distributed $25 million to three research institutions. The letter specifically asks BP to announce a nationwide request for proposals for the remaining $475 million.

“This environmental disaster is unprecedented and will continue to affect the ecosystems in the Gulf long after the well is capped,” Capps said. “Failure to start collecting data and conducting research now on the spill’s effects on delicate marshlands and fisheries, the impact of underwater oil plumes, and other critical issues will make it impossible to understand the full effect of this spill 10, 20 or 30 years from now.

“It’s essential that BP get this money out the door as soon as possible so scientists around the country can begin working to understand the catastrophic impacts an oil spill has on the marine environment.”

An independent advisory panel has already been assembled to evaluate grant proposals in a competitive process. The letter calls for the panel to consider proposals from research institutions not only in the Gulf region, but from across the country. Further, the letter states that BP should ensure that any studies funded through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative go through a peer-review process and be publicly available. Capps questioned Hayward at the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing about BP’s commitment to the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.

Click here for a copy of the Capps letter.

— Ashley Schapitl is the press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.