Filed Under:  Environmental, Gulf Coast, Local, News, Politics

As BP oil spill anniversary looms, groups laud RESTORE Act

28th April 2011   ·   0 Comments

A coalition of environmental, economic and social equity organizations on Thursday praised the Senate introduction of a bipartisan bill to ensure that 80 percent of the Clean Water Act (CWA) penalties to be paid by BP and others responsible for last year’s Gulf oil disaster will be used to restore the communities, economies and ecosystems of the Gulf region directly. Under current law, BP penalties for the oil spill will be deposited into the federal treasury instead of being used to help the people, environments and economies that suffered harm in the disaster.

The Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunity, and Revived Economies of the Gulf States Act of 2011 (RESTORE Act) was introduced Thursday – six days before the BP oil disaster anniversary next Wednesday (April 20)-by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and David Vitter (R-LA).

“The BP oil disaster was the latest assault in a long series of injuries to the environment and economy of the five Gulf states. Fines paid by BP and other parties responsible for this disaster belong in the Gulf, to help restore the environments and economies that were directly harmed,” said the joint statement by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Ocean Conservancy, Oxfam America, and The Nature Conservancy.

“We thank Senators Landrieu and Vitter for their leadership and for bringing Congress an important step closer to action in the Gulf. We look forward to working with the entire Gulf Senate delegation to make sure that these fines help the communities and environments that need restoration.”

On April 14, the Women of the Storm, a coalition of women from Texas to Florida, gathered in Washington, DC to “strongly urge” the 10 Gulf Coast senators to endorse the Landrieu/Vitter legislation to allocate 80 percent of BP fine dollars for Gulf Coast restoration.

“Two weeks ago we walked the halls of Congress with a focused mantra to urge allocation of BP fine dollars to our region.,” the group said in a prepared statement. “Today, our message is directed to our Gulf Coast senators.”

“Without a shared vision by our 10 regional senators to return these dollars to the five Gulf Coast states… billions of fine dollars will wash away into the federal treasury,” said Anne Milling, founder of Women of the Storm. “Indeed, this has been a catastrophic event for our region but it is also an opportunity to restore an area vital to America…its national security, commerce, recreation and culture. Investing in this area of our country with non-tax dollars now will pay dividends to our children and grandchildren.”

Casi Calloway, Alabama Women of the Storm member and executive director of Mobile Baykeeper, said, “This environmental disaster had huge economic ramifications for our communities. Bringing back 80 percent of the clean water act fines to the communities that were impacted will be a major step toward much needed recovery.”

The Gulf region is a vital part of the nation’s economy, and critical Gulf industries rely on environmental restoration:
• The Gulf currently supports a $34 billion per year tourism industry, and its fisheries support an estimated $22.6 billion in seafood and commercial and recreational fishing-related activity. (Center for American Progress)
• The Gulf produces roughly 40 percent of all the seafood in the lower 48 states.
(American Association of Port Authorities)
• The region is home to 10 of the nation’s 15 largest ports by tonnage. More than 25 percent of the nation’s waterborne exports pass through Louisiana ports alone. (National Marine Fisheries Service)
• Nearly nine out of 10 poll respondents (87%) across the five Gulf states agree that the environmental health of the Gulf Coast region affects their state’s economy very much or somewhat. (Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Research and Consulting)
• Environmental degradation has caused tremendous damage to the Gulf ecosystems in recent decades. The region has lost nearly 50 percent of its wetlands, 60 percent of its sea grass beds, 50 percent of its oyster reefs, and more than 32 percent of its mangrove forests. (The Nature Conservancy).

This story originally published in the April 18, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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