By Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund
It’s an important day for recovery in the Gulf Coast. Nearly two years after the BP oil disaster, the communities, economies and environment of the gulf are still struggling to recover. Today, Congress has the opportunity to take a crucial step towards making the gulf whole again: by voting yes on the Nelson-Shelby-Landrieu RESTORE Act amendment to S. 1813, the Surface Transportation bill. The RESTORE Act amendment has been paired with an additional $1.4 billion in funds towards the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF funds large-scale conservation projects in America’s most-treasured places.
The RESTORE Act amendment is legislation that would ensure 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties from the gulf oil spill are dedicated to gulf restoration. The bill has bipartisan support in both chambers of congress and from members nationwide. It would ensure that fine money be used to restore and revitalize the environment and economies of the Gulf Coast. Passage of this legislation is not only important to the people of the gulf, but to the entire nation that depends on a healthy gulf region. In fact to date, over 73 thousand people have taken action and told Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell that restoring the Gulf Coast is important.
In February, over 140 faith leaders sent a letter to Senate leadership urging them to pass the RESTORE Act and help repair the gulf. “Restoration projects that would be funded under this bill can help protect communities, restore ecosystems, revive the tourism and fishing industries, and create tens of thousands of jobs as residents rebuild and diversify their economy,” says the letter. “This legislation represents a significant, bipartisan and achievable step toward justice for Gulf Coast communities and ecosystems.”
Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents the interests of more than three million businesses and organizations, sent a letter to Senator Mary Landrieu supporting the bill. “The RESTORE Act, as currently written, is a common sense and bipartisan approach to a situation that has impacted the entire Gulf region,” states the letter. “The Chamber supports S. 1400, and applauds your leadership on this important issue.”
On Monday, the National Association of Counties (NACo), which was founded in 1935 and represents the interests of the nation’s 3,068 counties, accepted a resolution supporting the bill: “NACo supports the concept established by the RESTORE Act, that diverts penalty money from the responsible party to local economic and environmental restoration plans, and supports the expansion of this policy to future pollution incidents.”
In addition to these groups, associations including the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) and the Association of State Floodplain Managers (AFPM) sent letters to Congress supporting the RESTORE Act. And sportsmen organizations representing hundreds of thousands of hunters and anglers also reached out to the Senate, urging swift passage of the bill.
Call your senator NOW and tell them to vote Yes on the RESTORE Act amendment!
It's easy: Call the Senate switchboard at 202-224-3121 and tell them you'd like to speak with your senator. Here is a sample script:
"Hi, my name is _______ and I'm calling to urge the senator to vote Yes on Senate amendment 1822, the Nelson-Shelby-Landrieu RESTORE Act amendment. The damage from the oil spill happened in the gulf, so Congress should ensure that the oil spill fines go back to the gulf. Passing the RESTORE Act is the fair and right thing to do. Thank you."