RESTORE Act Fines Could Provide Job Opportunities in Gulf Coast, 32 Other States
December 5, 2011 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Job Creation, Media Resources, Reports, RESTORE Act

Economic Study Released 2 Days Before House Hearing on RESTORE Act 

(Tallahassee, FL–December 5, 2011) The Clean Water Act penalties from last year’s BP oil disaster could kick start the launch of a long-term investment in ecosystem restoration and create jobs that would benefit at least 140 businesses with nearly 400 employee locations in 37 states, including more than 260 in the Gulf Coast and nearly 60 in Florida, according to a new Duke University study. The report—“RESTORING THE GULF COAST: New Markets for Established Firms,” funded by Environmental Defense Fund—is based on a sample of 140 firms linked to coastal restoration projects already undertaken or completed.

“Long-term ecosystem restoration would be an economic grand slam because it both protects current jobs in key Florida industries—like fishing, tourism, and shipping—and creates new jobs,” said Jackie Prince Roberts, director of sustainable technologies for Environmental Defense Fund. “A study of Everglades restoration by Mather Economics—based on data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—estimates that every $1 million of public investment in restoring the Everglades would create about 20 jobs. Our study helps Florida residents understand where those jobs can be created, and the opportunity Florida has to be a leader in this new industry sector that provides ecosystem restoration services to the Gulf, and to meet emerging global demand."

The study’s release is timely because the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday to examine bipartisan legislation, the RESTORE Act (H.R. 3096), that would dedicate 80 percent of the estimated $5-21 billion in Clean Water Act fines from the 4.9 million barrel spill to restoring the Gulf. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee already has approved the Senate version of the bill (S. 1400), cosponsored by nine of the 10 Gulf state senators, including Florida’s Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R).

“Restoration projects activate a full supply chain linking materials providers, equipment manufacturers, shipbuilders, machinery repair firms, engineering and construction contractors, and environmental resource firms,” the report says. “Many of the firms are based in the Gulf Coast region. Having long worked in the marine construction industry building oil and gas industry infrastructure, they can apply the same skills and equipment to coastal restoration, thus finding new markets and a more diverse client base.”

Florida companies involved in coastal restoration.

“Coastal habitat restoration typically creates at least 3-4 times as many jobs as road infrastructure or oil and gas projects for every $1 million invested,” said Keith Bowers, president of Biohabitats, Inc., a conservation planning, ecological restoration and regenerative design firm that does restoration work in the Everglades, Big Cypress and Tampa Bay, FL, Texas and Louisiana, and  has offices in Baltimore, MD; Louisville, KY; Raleigh, NC; North Charleston, SC, Denver, CO; Cleveland, OH; Glen Ridge, NJ; and Santa Fe, NM. “This study proves ecological restoration can be a real catalyst for job creation, economic vitality and ecosystem resiliency. Passing the RESTORE Act could help restore the fishing and tourism industries in Florida and the other Gulf Coast states.”

Two-thirds of the firms sampled have offices in the Gulf Coast and qualify as small businesses, according to Small Business Administration guidelines on number of employees. One of the firms is Taylor Engineering, an employee-owned design firm Taylor Engineering that restored seven miles of critically eroded beaches battered by hurricanes in Walton County and the city of Destin in Okaloosa County and has full-service offices in Jacksonville and West Palm Beach, and local-service offices in Tampa and Destin, FL, Savannah, GA, Baltimore, MD, and Columbia, SC. The firm has provided a life-cycle commitment to the art and science of delivering sustainable solutions in the water environment since 1983.

“If our customer base picks up in response to RESTORE funding, there would be a positive and sustainable long-term impact on our hiring,” said James Marino, P.E., President of Taylor Engineering, and a certified Diplomat in Coastal Engineering, who was an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 20 years. “Restoration projects are very important to small and medium-sized firms like ours because they provide a valuable stream of work in a fragile economy. The cost to benefit ratio is very high for restoration projects, especially for beach restoration, which brings considerable value for regional economies in a multitude of business sectors. Not only do these projects serve as an immediate and prolonged benefit economically, but more importantly, the net positive effects provided to a sustainable environmental infrastructure are enduring.”

Gulf Coast and Mississippi River Delta-based firms involved in coastal restoration.

The BP oil disaster worsened the damage to the badly degraded Mississippi River Delta wetlands, a priceless resource that “sustains the Gulf region’s unique people and cultures and brings the U.S. economy billions of dollars each year in energy, fishing, shipping and tourism,” the report states. “At stake in the loss of coastal wetlands is not only the environmental health of the Gulf region, but also several of the nation’s vital industries.”

The Gulf region’s critical economic role, and the extent to which this role depends on the delta ecosystem, is evident in the following assets provided by the Gulf region:

The report notes that a robust coastal restoration sector has been developing in the marine construction industry, but recent budget cuts have stalled many authorized restoration projects.

“In Florida, the economy is the environment, but funding for environmental restoration projects has been reduced by the state and most local governments,” said Michael L. Davis, Vice President and Principal, Keith and Schnars, P.A., an environmental, planning and engineering consulting firm that currently is working on the South Miami-Dade Watershed Study and Plan and has offices in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and Doral, Florida. “The RESTORE Act is a win for Florida’s economy and Florida’s environment because it will enable environmental consulting firms like mine to hire additional biologists and engineers, and restoration construction contractors to buy more equipment and hire more operators.”

The report concludes that coastal restoration is needed in Florida, California, the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes. If U.S. markets expand, the firms that serve them will be well positioned to sell to international markets as they develop in the future. For example, several countries in Asia are developing integrated coastal management programs, and recently India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Vietnam have undertaken hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of coastal restoration projects. The RESTORE Act would continue to build this promising new sector.

Contact: Sean Crowley, 202-550-6524-c, scrowley@edf.org

2 Responses to RESTORE Act Fines Could Provide Job Opportunities in Gulf Coast, 32 Other States

  1. If the waters of the Gulf of Mexico continue to be freshly oiled from the unnatural seepage leaking from the fractured seabed for miles around the Deepwater Horizon site, as has been claimed by reputable scientists and geologists, the waters of the Gulf are continuing to be contaminated in an on-going onslaught of toxicity. How does rebuilding coastal wetlands address this? If the waters are toxic, the seafood will continue to die off, the fishing industry will continue to be horribly impacted, the risk to human health is still high causing distrust and trepidation in the tourism industry.

    The fact that there are natural, non-toxic enzymatic solutions, like Oil Spill Eater II, to actually cleaning up the Gulf waters, and even containing any unnatural seepage in defined geographical areas where it does only limited damage would have to be the first step and would be the only effective and real solution to turning this situation around. With the example of Oil Spill Eater II (OSE II), it rapidly detoxifies the oil and chemical dispersants, and, within generally less than 2 weeks turns the oil into totally benign elements: water and CO2. The fact that it has cleaned up over 16,000 oil spills in the last 21 years and is already on the EPA's approved official list for oil spill cleanup makes it absolutely baffling that the EPA has refused to allow it to be used on this spill. Even more baffling because even BP has requested to use it in field trials after successfully testing it in LSU labs, and the EPA will not allow it and refuses to put anything in writing as to why.

    Very odd, and very destructive.

  2. Bill Reeder says:

    Oil Spill Eater was requested for demonstration by Governor Jindal, and use by La Senator Crowe, Mississippi Senator Gollot, Alabama Senator Irwin, the city of Destin as well as BP with requests to the tw Coast Guard twice and the EPA. Governor Jindal's fast track review committee of PHD's and scientist from 4 Louisiana Universities including LSU reviewed all the technical information and history of OSE II, they determined OSE II should be demonstrated on Chandelier Island, after seeing a demonstration on the Lake behind the Louisiana State capital with several state senators in attendance as well as Homeland security personnel. OSE II was demonstrated 14 times on the BP Macondo spill with ABC news filming several of the demonstrations in three states. The OSEI Corporation worked with Evergreen aviation to prepare for the aerial application of OSE II by a 747 airplane, St. Benard Parish President Tafaro prepared to equip 100's of small vessels with simple fire fighting eductor/induction systems to apply OSE II, and the US EPA Sam Coleman and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson stopped all actions with OSE II without a reason; and the result of there actions is extreme destruction of the Gulf's natural resources, compromised human health, and great economic destruction. The EPA and Coast Guard continue down the same destructive path refusing to look at any response other than mechanical equipment and toxic dispersants, both, of which have proven woefully inadequate. The US EPA gets its charter from the delegated charge from the Presidents oath of office to protect the natural resources and health of humans, they defy this, and promote and develop regulations to insure a monopoly for toxic dispersants and mechanical clean up. The regulations the EPA and Coast Guard have written defy the clean water act, which renders the regulations mute, yet they try to hide behind the regulations as the reason not to advance oil spill response. A recent spill off the Coast of Africa was cleaned up with OSE II, after the spill of 550,000 liters covered 18 kilometers of shoreline with sensitive mangroves. The open water part of the spill was addressed immediately, and then the shorelines, in less than 29 days you could not tell there had ever been a spill, there was no detectable natural resource damages, fishing was reopened in a matter of a couple of weeks and everything was back to pre spill conditions. THIRD WORLD countries carry out a more effective safer response to oil spills than the US EPA and Coast Guard allow. During this African spill not one responder or community volunteer became ill, as is always the case with the US EPA and Coast Guard response, since they allow and promote the use of toxic dispersants. The EPA and Coast Guard have proven time again for the last 25 years they are unwilling to adhere to the clean water act as well as there own charter. The Oil from the BP Macondo spill for the most part is lying on the seabed, the OSEI Corporation along with scientists from MIT had developed a system to apply OSE II to the oil lying on the seabed to bring it to the surface and convert the oil to a safe end point of CO2 and water, and as of today are still waiting for the EPA to follow the laws of the Clean water act and use the most effective, safe means to remove oil from the environment, OSE II.

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