Archive for Congress


Conservation Organizations Respond to Senator Mary Landrieu’s Confirmation as Chairwoman of Energy and Natural Resources Committee

February 11, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Media Resources, RESTORE Act, Senator Mary Landrieu

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACTS: Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, eskree@edf.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Erin Greeson, National Audubon Society, 503.913.8978, egreeson@audubon.org

Conservation Organizations Respond to Senator Mary Landrieu’s Confirmation as Chairwoman of Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Landrieu a champion for Louisiana coastal restoration, Gulf oil spill recovery

(Washington, DC—February 11, 2014) Today, the U.S. Senate Democratic Caucus confirmed Senator Mary Landrieu as chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. National and local conservation organizations committed to Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense FundNational Wildlife FederationNational Audubon SocietyLake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana – issued the following statement:

“We are pleased to welcome Senator Mary Landrieu as the new chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Senator Landrieu has proven herself to be a champion for restoration of the Mississippi River Delta, as well as an effective legislator, notably demonstrated by her leadership in crafting and passing the bipartisan RESTORE Act which benefits the entire Gulf Coast. The law ensures that Clean Water Act fines from the 2010 BP Gulf oil disaster go back to the Gulf Coast states for restoration. This historic legislation would not have become law without Senator Landrieu’s tireless leadership and her ability to work across the aisle. In her new capacity as committee chairwoman, we look forward to a continued partnership to advance both funding and implementation of Mississippi River Delta restoration.”

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The Restore the Mississippi River Delta coalition is working to protect people, wildlife and jobs by reconnecting the river with its wetlands. As our region faces the crisis of threatening land loss, we offer science-based solutions through a comprehensive approach to restoration. Comprised of conservation, policy, science and outreach experts from Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, we are located in Houma, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. See more at www.mississippiriverdelta.org.

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New oil spill money released for Gulf Coast restoration

July 1, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Congress, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), Restoration Projects

By Mordechai Treiger, Environmental Defense Fund

Last month, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident announced Phase III of their Early Restoration efforts. The NRDA Trustees include representatives from the five Gulf Coast states and four federal agencies who are charged with assessing damage to natural resources, such as marshes, sea grasses, birds and marine mammals, stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Oiled Kemps Ridley turtle (credit: NOAA).

Phase III represents the largest collection of NRDA proposals to date, encompassing 28 proposals intended to restore ecosystem health and lost recreational opportunities across five states. At $320 million, the biggest of these new projects will be to rehabilitate Mississippi River Delta ecosystems devastated by the oil spill and subsequent cleanup efforts. Called the Louisiana Outer Coast Restoration project, it will restore damaged barrier islands in Plaquemines and Terrebonne Parishes by rebuilding beaches, dunes and back-barrier marsh habitat.

Restoration workers will deposit sediment in an effort to create new land, install sand fencing to encourage dune growth and plant native species across the island in an effort to combat erosion. The strengthened barrier islands will protect wetlands along the delta’s coastline as well as provide critical habitat for a variety of wildlife that suffered in the aftermath of the spill, including fish, shellfish and birds. The cost of the Louisiana Outer Coast Restoration project is expected to cost $320 million.

Previously, the NRDA Trustees finalized the first phase of early NRDA projects, which included eight restoration projects spread across five gulf states in April 2012, and the second phase of early NRDA projects, which introduced an additional two restoration projects in November 2012. In addition to the $71 million committed to Early Restoration in Phases I and II, the new projects will bring restoration spending totals under NRDA to well over $600 million.

Oiled marsh in Barataria Bay, La. (credit: NOAA).

All NRDA projects, from Phase I through Phase III, are being negotiated and funded in accordance with the $1 billion Early Framework Agreement signed by the NRDA Trustees and BP in April of 2011. The Framework Agreement was largely seen as a positive step toward restoring the Gulf when it was signed, but since then, money has been slow to flow under the agreement.

The NRDA Trustees recently announced their intention to delay further implementation of early restoration, including the recently announced Phase III projects, until the completion of a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for all Deepwater Horizon oil spill recovery efforts. Nevertheless, the Trustees remain committed to swiftly advancing these important ecosystem restoration projects with all deliberate speed.

At a June 6 U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing, Rachel Jacobson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of Interior, underlined the urgency of Gulf restoration, stating, “Interior fully recognizes, without hesitation, that the time to begin restoration is now.” She went on to promise that early restoration efforts would not come at the expense of, or otherwise undermine, the ultimate goal of complete restoration. “We will not stop until the entire billion is obligated,” Jacobson continued. “It is important to note that our early restoration efforts in no way affect our ongoing assessment work or our ability to recover from BP the full measure of damages needed for complete restoration.”

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Senate hearing reviews Gulf Coast oil spill restoration efforts

June 10, 2013 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, Meetings/Events, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), RESTORE Act, Senator Mary Landrieu

By Will Lindsey, Environmental Defense Fund

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing Thursday (June 6) to review the progress that has been made to restore the Gulf Coast since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) chaired the hearing, titled “Gulf Restoration: A Progress Report Three Years after the Deepwater Horizon Disaster.” The hearing came nearly a year after passage of the RESTORE Act, legislation that allocates 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties from the 2010 oil spill to Gulf restoration. Both senators were cosponsors of the legislation.

Seven witnesses testified at the hearing, representing organizations responsible for managing these restoration funds – as well as the projects that will utilize these funds – that will soon begin flowing through three funding streams as a result of the 2010 spill. These streams include $2.54 billion resulting from the BP criminal settlement, an initial $800 million as a result of a Transocean settlement and $1 billion as a result of agreements with BP to fund early restoration efforts under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process. The amount of funds available under the RESTORE Act is expected to grow substantially once the ongoing civil trials with BP are complete.

Notably, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who played a vital role in passing the RESTORE Act, gave the opening remarks. In reference to the need to better understand the Gulf Coast in order to implement restoration efforts, Landrieu said, “Science can make us much better leaders, if we would just listen to our scientists and to the actual research.” Following these opening remarks, each witness provided an oral testimony on the efforts their individual organizations have taken since the spill.

In response to the first testimony by Lois Schiffer, General Counsel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Sen. Nelson stressed Congress’s expectation that the administrative agencies involved with the implementation of restoration projects follow the legislative intent of Congress in enacting the law. “One of the things that we want to emphasize here is that we want you to pay attention to the law,” Nelson said. The statement came in reference to a previous comment by Sen. Landrieu indicating that the law was written in order to strike a balance between competing interests and thus a portion of the law specifically allocates a percentage of the funds solely to environmental restoration.

In the final testimony, Dr. Stephen Polasky, professor of environmental economics at the University of Minnesota, emphasized the importance of the RESTORE Act and the funding that it will provide to Gulf restoration. “Under the RESTORE Act, we can reinvest in nature to ensure the recovery of the Gulf of Mexico, so that it continues to provide benefits to current and future generations,” said Polasky.

Moving forward, it appears that Congress will be paying encouragingly close attention to the ways in which the Gulf Coast restoration money from these different funding streams is being spent. Also encouraging is the apparent intention of the recipients of these funds to work together to ensure that comprehensive restoration remains a key focal point of the ongoing efforts along the Gulf Coast. As Rachel Jacobson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks for the Department of Interior, stated in her testimony, “We have a responsibility to the public to ensure that we make wise investments that are well-coordinated across the spectrum, through all funding streams.”

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BP Oil Spill: 1,000 Days Later

January 14, 2013 | Posted by Chandler Clay in Birds, BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, Economics, Federal Policy, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, Hurricane Isaac, Latest News, Restoration Projects, Seafood

It's been exactly 1,000 days since the BP-operated oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, gushing millions of barrels of crude oil into a body of water that supports countless ecosystems and economies.

Below is a timeline of major events that have occurred in the last 1,000 days.

Tell BP to stop stalling, take responsibility, and pay the maximum Clean Water Act fines for which they are liable — now!

Sources:

- Restorethegulf.org, "First oiled bird is recovered."
- Restorethegulf.org, "NOAA Expands Fishing Closed Area in Gulf of Mexico."
- The New York Times, "Effects of Spill Spread as Tar Balls Are Found."
- TIME, "100 Days of the BP Spill: A Timeline."
- The White House, "Executive Order 13554–Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force."
- Bloomberg, "BP Oil Still Ashore One Year After End of Gulf Spill."
- PNAS, "Impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on a deep-water coral community in the Gulf of Mexico."
- University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, "Study confirms oil from Deepwater Horizon disaster entered food chain in the Gulf of Mexico."
- The Times-Picayune, "About 565,000 pounds of oiled material from Deepwater Horizon stirred up by Hurricane Isaac."
- The New York Times, "BP Will Plead Guilty and Pay Over $4 Billion."
- Georgia Tech Biology, "Gulf of Mexico Clean-Up Makes 2010 Spill 52-Times More Toxic."
- University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, "UMiami scientists partner with NOAA, Stanford and U of N Texas to study post spill fish toxicology."
- NOAA Fisheries Service, "2010-2013 Cetacean Unusual Mortality Event in Northern Gulf of Mexico."
- The Times-Picayune, "Transocean to pay $1.4 billion to settle pollution, safety violations in Gulf oil spill."

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The People Have Spoken

October 1, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Congress, Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi River Gulf Outlet

By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation

On September 6, restoration along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) passed another important milestone with completion of the final public comment period for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ planning process. It’s a milestone worth honoring, because almost 49,000 people commented on the plan and the need to prioritize restoration of the area. These comments were collected through nonprofit organizations affiliated with the MRGO Must Go Coalition, and since last year, over 75,000 people have shared their voice of support for the Coalition’s recommendations for MRGO ecosystem restoration during the public comment process. That is, by far, a record for the Corps of Engineers New Orleans District and goes to show how important this restoration effort is for the Greater New Orleans area.

“The corps needs to listen to the will of the people and address the ecosystem damaged by the MRGO. It’s time for the corps to step up to their responsibility and move on this work,” said John Koeferl, member of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Despite this loud demand for urgent and comprehensive restoration, the Corps of Engineers is considering a recommendation of no further action on the MRGO ecosystem restoration report, due to a dispute over who will pay for the projects. A formal decision is still being made on the recommendation by the Chief of Engineers and is expected this week.

Aerial graphic of MRGO ecosystem restoration plan components. Source: U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

Of course, the need for restoration transcends a policy dispute. The MRGO report, which is more than four years beyond its congressional deadline, contains the corps’ plan to restore a portion of more than 600,000 acres of coastal wetlands and waterways impacted by the MRGO shipping channel. The MRGO has been directly linked to intensifying the destruction of Hurricane Katrina by destroying the wetlands that once buffered the Greater New Orleans area from storm surge.

In addition to the Coalition’s recommendation that the Corps of Engineers move forward on plan implementation, other major recommendations were offered to the corps, including prioritizing the 19 projects listed in the corps’ report that are also addressed in Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan, as well as expeditiously moving forward the Violet Freshwater Diversion. The majority of marsh creation, marsh nourishment and swamp creation features depend on river reintroduction, and the Violet Diversion project will allow for salinity control, sediment delivery to the Central Wetlands area, and better adaptation to sea level rise.

To learn more about the MRGO Must Go Coalition and our recommendations, please visit www.MRGOmustGO.org.

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The RESTORE Act: Past, present and future

August 14, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, Diversions, Job Creation, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act, Seafood, Senator Mary Landrieu

By Whit Remer, Policy Analyst, Environmental Defense Fund

It’s been an exciting year for Louisiana and the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign.

In July 2011, nine gulf senators banded together and introduced the RESTORE Act – legislation that would ensure penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the gulf oil spill would be used to restore the gulf region’s environment and economy. In September, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the bill and in October, Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) and 20 other gulf representatives introduced the House version of the bill. Supporters worked hard and waited patiently as the RESTORE Act continued winding its way through congressional hearings and historic votes until finally, on June 29, 2012, the RESTORE Act was included as part of the final transportation bill and days later signed into law by the President. It was an amazing journey from start to finish, and we want to take a moment to reflect on the past year and begin looking forward to how the RESTORE Act will unfold to become the single largest environmental restoration investment ever made by Congress.

Sen. Mary Landrieu introduces Rep. Steve Scalise, who led the RESTORE Act effort in the House, during a Capitol Hill event marking its passage. Photo courtesy of Sen. Landrieu.

The idea of spending penalty money from the oil spill on environmental and economic restoration in the gulf region is only fair. Diverse groups, including conservation organizations, the Secretary of the Navy, chambers of commerce from across the gulf region and even a special commission created by the President in response to the spill, all agreed it was the right thing to do. Heeding this call, Congress came together to design a bill to return the money where it belongs: to the Gulf Coast. In the Senate, the RESTORE Act received 76 votes – a remarkable display of bipartisanship which highlights the broad support had by the bill. Of course, it could not have happened without our campaign’s supporters, who used social media, letters to the editor and appeals to their congressional representatives to make the bill a top priority.

Looking forward, we are excited that the RESTORE Act has the potential to make the environment and economies of the Gulf Coast healthy again. The RESTORE Act includes a list of various eligible activities that states may use funds for, ranging from coastal restoration and shoreline protection to seafood and tourism promotion. All of these activities will provide new job opportunities for residents along the Gulf Coast and across the nation. As a recent Duke University report shows, the RESTORE Act is a win for the entire country.

The RESTORE Act also sets up a Restoration Council comprised of various federal agencies and states affected by the spill to create an environmental restoration plan for the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast. The plan has the potential to address major, and very expensive, challenges in the Mississippi River Delta. A top funding priority in the plan for Louisiana will be designing and constructing large-scale sediment diversions along the lower Mississippi River. Sediment diversions provide wetlands with essential supplies of fresh water and new silt which help rebuild land and protect the coast.

Over the next few months, the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign will update readers on important RESTORE Act developments. We hope to provide you with useful information as the Restoration Council forms and begins the important process of creating a restoration plan for America’s Gulf Coast.

Stay tuned.

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The Next 50 Years: Funding features for the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan

July 17, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Coastal Master Plan series, Congress, Federal Policy, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), RESTORE Act, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

By Cynthia Duet, Director of Governmental Relations, National Audubon Society

Louisiana’s recently passed 2012 Coastal Master Plan contains an ambitious mix of risk-reduction and restoration projects spread across the entire Louisiana coastal area. Such ambition does, however, come with a price — costing an estimated $50 billion over 50 years, and so the plan is also frank in its account of the uncertainties and complexities of funding and creating a sustainable coastal Louisiana ecosystem. To reverse generations of massive and ongoing land loss, encroaching sea level rise and a decade of natural and manmade disasters, the funding challenge must be met head on.

The state acknowledges the need to quickly begin the large-scale work laid out in the plan. At the same time, project implementation depends on funding from a myriad of sources. These projects will also be implemented by various actors — some projects by Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), others by local or federal partners. Progress will be tracked through the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Annual Plan, which will identify specific projects, schedules and funding streams.

So now that the plan is passed, does the funding exist to implement the plan?

In recent years, and in brighter economic times, the Louisiana Legislature authorized a generous allocation of state surplus dollars — a total of $790 million between 2007 and 2009 — to accelerate implementation of priority projects for the coast. Additionally, the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP), established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, provided nearly $500 million to the state of Louisiana and its coastal parishes, the bulk of which was obligated and spent on critical protection and restoration projects in fiscal years 2007-2010. These dollars, accompanied by the long-standing Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) dollars (approximately $80 million per year to which the state matches 15%), the Louisiana Coastal Area Program (LCA) dollars and related federal funds through the Water Resources Development Act  of 2007 (WRDA), are the foundation upon which the coastal program has been funded to date.

On the horizon are revenues from the sale of mineral leases and royalty revenue from oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico that have been dedicated to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Trust fund through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Securities Act of 2006 (GOMESA). Though funding from this program has trickled through in modest increments since 2007, larger revenue streams from these royalties will be available in 2017 when “Phase II” of that program begins. Estimates of funding for Louisiana from this source have ranged up to $500 million annually on the high end, but the true figures are nearly impossible to pin down because they are tied to new leasing and drilling activities in the gulf.

As the state continues to ramp up its coastal efforts, bringing more and larger projects to construction, more money is required in the short term to fill the gap between now and 2017, when the GOMESA funding is realized. Some significant recent commitments to funding have come in the form of post-Deepwater Horizon oil spill commitments:

  • On July 6, 2012, the President signed into law the transportation funding bill which contains the RESTORE Act, a landmark piece of legislation that dedicates 80 percent of all Clean Water Act penalties and fines from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to projects in the gulf states for environmental and economic recovery. The settlement has yet to be reached that will ultimately determine the exact value of those dollars to be directed to impacted gulf states, but the range is somewhere between $5 and $21 billion.

For planning purposes, the Coastal Master Plan was crafted using reasonable budget projections and a conservative view of what is likely to be received by the state in the coming decades — a range of between $20 and $50 billion (in present value dollars) over the next 50 years. This range was further defined and annualized, and an estimated $400 million to $1 billion per year was the result.

The Coastal Master Plan emphasizes that funds are not guaranteed and that funding levels are based on the state’s best “educated guess.” Funds will not arrive at once but will be spaced over the next 50 years; and much of the expected funding is tied to CWPPRA (about $80 million per year, requiring a reauthorization in 2019), GOMESA (about $110 million per year after 2017), LCA (about $150 milllion per year), the RESTORE Act and NRDA.

In summary, insufficient funding has been the Achilles’ heel of coastal work for decades. Though this will remain the case for years to come, as the implementation of the large and ambitious 2012 Coastal Master Plan begins to unfold, the necessary elements are finally beginning to come together for a hopeful future. Through continued efforts by the State of Louisiana, its delegation leaders, the U.S. Congress and a bit of urging by our own NGO partners, we can all work together to make the Coastal Master Plan’s vision a reality. 

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RESTORE Act: A momentous victory for conservation

July 13, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

By Brian Moore, Legislative Director, National Audubon Society

Last Friday (July 6), President Obama signed into law the Surface Transportation Extension Act that included the RESTORE Act. This landmark legislation will direct 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the 2010 gulf oil spill to the Gulf Coast states to use for restoration. The House and Senate passed the bill on June 29.

This legislation is truly historic – the RESTORE Act is the single largest investment in environmental restoration ever made by the United States Congress. The Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign has been working on this legislation for more than two years, and its passage is a proud moment for everyone involved.

This giant step forward will provide as much as $20 billion in funds for gulf restoration and recovery. Here’s what it means for wildlife, habitat and people:

  • Each of the five gulf states will have the financial capacity to begin and complete restoration projects that have been long planned but underfunded.
  • Thousands of acres of lost habitat for birds and other wildlife in the region will be restored, repaired or replaced.
  • Much needed reengineering of the Mississippi River Basin will get a kick start. This reengineering will ultimately allow the ecosystem to naturally rebuild itself and help reverse the decades of Louisiana coastal land loss.
  • Restoration projects large and small will receive essential support.

We are thrilled to be delivering billions of dollars of desperately needed investment to one of America’s most biologically rich regions. Over the next months and years, our campaign will be working closely with the federal-state task force set up by the RESTORE Act to propose and implement restoration projects in Louisiana and across the entire Gulf Coast.

This is one of the greatest victories for conservation ever to come out of Congress in recent memory. We should all be proud of this achievement and excited to start the process of delivering on-the-ground conservation and restoration funding to the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast.

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Senator Landrieu visits Louisiana coastal communities, celebrates passage of RESTORE Act

July 10, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Media Resources, Meetings/Events, RESTORE Act, Senator Mary Landrieu

By Amanda Moore and Happy Johnson, National Wildlife Federation

Senator Mary Landrieu and National Wildlife Federation's Amanda Moore in Lafitte, La.

Yesterday (July 9), U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) kicked off a five-stop Louisiana coastal tour to celebrate the historic passage and signing into law of the RESTORE Act. Stops included Jean Lafitte, Thibodaux, Lafayette, Lake Charles and Bell City. Staff from the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign were on hand in Lafitte as the senior senator from Louisiana thanked the crowd for the time and energy spent achieving this momentous victory for our coast.

“This tremendous victory would never have been possible without the broad support of environmental, wildlife and business groups in Louisiana and throughout the Gulf Coast,” said Senator Landrieu in a press statement.

The RESTORE Act, first introduced in July 2011 by Senators Landrieu and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), will dedicate 80 percent of penalties paid under the Clean Water Act to the gulf states for ecological and economic restoration. BP could face fines between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion. In Louisiana, this funding will be critical for implementation of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan, a 50-year, $50 billion restoration and protection plan for the state.

Thanks to Senator Landrieu for her leadership, and thanks to all of the legislators who voted to bring justice to the gulf.

Photos from the Laffite event can be seen on the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Facebook page.

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Groups Commend Louisiana Congressional Supporters on Passage of RESTORE Act

June 29, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, Media Resources, RESTORE Act, Senator David Vitter, Senator Mary Landrieu

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:
Chris Macaluso, Louisiana Wildlife Federation, 225.802.4048, chris@lawildlifefed.org
Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, eskree@edf.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, guidrye@nwf.org
Karen Gautreaux, The Nature Conservancy, 225.788.4525, kgautreaux@tnc.org
Kevin Chandler, National Audubon Society, 202.596.0960, kchandler@audubon.org
Scott Madere, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.767.4181, scottm@crcl.org

GROUPS COMMEND LOUISIANA CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORTERS ON PASSAGE OF RESTORE ACT

Legislation restoring Gulf Coast ecosystems and economy included in Transportation Bill

(Baton Rouge, La. – June 29, 2012) Today, local and national conservation groups praised the passage of the Surface Transportation Extension Act that includes the RESTORE Act, a measure that will dedicate 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines from BP and other parties responsible for the 2010 gulf oil disaster to restoring the Gulf Coast environment and economy. In praising the RESTORE Act, the groups also encouraged the federal government and the State of Louisiana to ensure the fines are spent on the coastal projects laid out in the state’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan.

“We applaud the leaders from both houses whose tireless efforts have seen the RESTORE Act to this point, especially Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter and Representatives Steve Scalise and Cedric Richmond,” said the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Louisiana Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy in a joint statement

“The BP oil disaster devastated an already degraded coastal region, one that is suffering from a decades-long coastal land loss crisis. Fortunately, through Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan, we have the solutions in hand to repair ecosystems, increase resiliency and ensure the long-term sustainability of coastal communities. We encourage state and federal officials to do the right thing and ensure RESTORE Act funds go towards jumpstarting the critical restoration projects needed to ensure our coast’s survival.”

Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost more than 1,900 square miles of wetlands, an area roughly equivalent in size to the state of Delaware. A recent study by researchers at the University of Florida shows that the BP oil disaster accelerated land loss by killing the marsh grasses that hold the marsh together, doubling the rate of erosion in some areas.

Over the decades, the decline of the Mississippi River Delta’s wetlands has dramatically impaired protection from hurricanes and wiped out much of the buffer against future storms and disasters. The loss of wetlands also threatens:

  • One of our nation’s most important fisheries
  • One of our nation’s most significant port complexes and navigation systems
  • Wildlife, including tens of millions of migratory birds and waterfowl
  • Domestic energy production and processing
  • Communities all along the central Gulf Coast

Earlier this year, the Louisiana State Legislature unanimously approved the 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, a 50-year blueprint for restoring Louisiana’s rapidly disappearing coastal wetlands and protecting the state’s natural resources and communities. Funding from the RESTORE Act could be used to implement Coastal Master Plan projects, which is expected to cost $50 billion over the next fifty years. A study by Mather Economics also demonstrates the potential job benefits of using RESTORE Act fines for restoration. The study estimates that a $25 billion investment could create as many as 57,000 jobs through restoration.

Without the RESTORE Act, fines from the spill would automatically be deposited into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to cover future spills elsewhere and into the Federal Treasury for unspecified general spending. With today’s vote and the President’s signature, this measure will ensure that Louisiana and the other Gulf Coast states struck by this historic disaster receive the funding necessary to make a full recovery.

“The RESTORE Act will not just help restore Louisiana’s ecosystems – the restoration projects it funds will also create new jobs and boost the state’s economy. This is a win-win for coastal communities along the delta,” the statement continued. “We look forward to working with the State and Administration to make sure these funds are used to revive the critical ecosystems and local economies that our nation depends on.”

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