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Groups Commend Congress on RESTORE Act

June 28, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, Media Resources, Reports, RESTORE Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: 
Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, eskree@edf.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, guidrye@nwf.org
Kevin Chandler, National Audubon Society, 202.596.0960, kchandler@audubon.org
Heather Layman, The Nature Conservancy, 703.475.1733, hlayman@tnc.org
David Willett, Ocean Conservancy, 202.351.0465, dwillett@oceanconservancy.org
Mary Babic, Oxfam America, 617.517.9475, mbabic@oxfamamerica.org

GROUPS COMMEND CONGRESS ON RESTORE ACT

Legislation restoring Gulf Coast ecosystems and economy included in transportation bill 

(Washington, D.C. – June 28, 2012) Local and national conservation groups have issued the following joint statement in response to the Senate and House inclusion of the RESTORE Act in the Surface Transportation Extension Act. Consistent with recent findings from two independent commissions, the RESTORE Act dedicates 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines from BP and other parties responsible for the 2010 Gulf oil spill to restoring the Gulf Coast environment and economy.

“We applaud the transportation bill conferees and the Gulf Coast Senators  and Representatives for making Gulf Coast restoration a priority by including the RESTORE Act in their final bill,” said Environmental Defense FundNational Audubon SocietyNational Wildlife FederationThe Nature ConservancyOcean Conservancy and Oxfam America. “The RESTORE Act will help revitalize the entire region by ensuring the bulk of the fines collected from those responsible for the spill are directed back to the area that suffered so much harm.”

“Funding from the RESTORE Act will help the ailing Gulf Coast as well as the entire nation. Our economy depends on a healthy Gulf – it is where roughly 40 percent of America’s domestically caught seafood is produced, and billions of dollars in goods flow in and out of its ports every year. It is also home to some of the nation’s most at-risk wetlands, socially vulnerable communities and richest natural resources. This legislation will not only restore ecosystems and communities, it will also help create jobs and boost our economy.”

“We look forward to seeing the RESTORE Act cross the finish line in Congress and working with the states and Administration to ensure that every dollar is used to help restore the Gulf and increase the resiliency of its ecosystems and communities. Passage of the RESTORE Act would be an affirmation by the nation that the Gulf of Mexico is a valuable economic and ecological resource that benefits all Americans.”

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Conservation groups laud funding for restoration efforts from U.S. House

June 1, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in Army Corps of Engineers, Congress, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Media Resources, Restoration Projects

Federal funds will support critical restoration construction projects, jobs in Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Washington, D.C. — June 1, 2012) Today, local and national conservation groups applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for approving $10 million in new funding for critical Louisiana coastal restoration projects.

Passed as an amendment to the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, the measure was sponsored by Louisiana Representatives Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and directs $10 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction account for the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) program. This funding allows the Corps of Engineers to begin construction on federally approved restoration projects that will restore and rebuild Louisiana wetlands and barrier islands. In April, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $16.8 million for LCA ecosystem restoration projects. This funding supports President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget request for coastal restoration projects.

“This funding is an important step in breaking ground on federally approved projects that will restore critical wetlands around the Mississippi River Delta and protect Louisiana’s coastal infrastructure and natural resources,” said the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation in a joint statement. "Thanks to the efforts of Representatives Scalise and Richmond, these funds will allow Louisiana to move forward on these projects that are so necessary to the long-term viability of our coastal communities.”

Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost more than 1,900 square miles of wetlands, an area roughly the size of the state of Delaware. The decline of the Mississippi River Delta’s wetlands has dramatically weakened protection from hurricanes by wiping out much of the natural buffer against storm surge and other 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

The federal funding was provided in the House’s version of the FY13 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

More restoration projects like the ones funded through this budget request would be possible with passage of the RESTORE Act. The legislation would dedicate 80 percent of oil spill penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the 2010 oil spill towards gulf restoration. The RESTORE Act has received strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and is currently under consideration as part of conference committee negotiations of the House and Senate transportation funding bills.

Contacts:
Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, eskree@edf.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, guidrye@nwf.org
Kevin Chandler, National Audubon Society, 202.596.0960, kchandler@audubon.org

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More than 100 Gulf Coast cities, municipalities, economic development groups and chambers of commerce urge Congress to pass RESTORE Act

May 30, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, Media Resources, Meetings/Events, RESTORE Act, Seafood, Videos

Gulf Coast leaders discuss the importance of passing the RESTORE Act at a press event in Tallahassee. Photo credit: Kevin Cate.

Yesterday, 118 leaders representing cities, municipalities, economic development groups and chambers of commerce from all five gulf states sent a joint letter to House and Senate leadership urging them to pass the RESTORE Act. If passed, the RESTORE Act would direct the majority of fines paid by those responsible for the 2010 gulf oil spill back to Gulf Coast communities.

Both the Senate and House have passed versions of the RESTORE Act as part of their transportation bills. The legislation would dedicate 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties from the gulf oil disaster to Gulf Coast environmental and economic restoration.

“Though the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill was two years ago, many in the fishing and oil and gas communities are still building back after suffering tremendous economic and personal loss,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “The RESTORE Act provisions in the final transportation bill are vital to Louisiana. These funds will help rebuild our precious wetlands, which provide our country national, energy and economic security. It’s imperative that the RESTORE Act receives passage by both chambers and is sent to President Obama’s desk for signature.”

At a press conference at The Wharf Express in Tallahassee, Fla., local leaders spoke to the media about the importance of restoring Florida’s economy after the oil spill and passing the RESTORE Act as soon as possible. Photos from the event can be viewed here.

“In Panama City Beach, our economy depends on beautiful natural resources that were injured in the BP oil disaster, including our alluring beaches and fresh Gulf seafood, which drive tourism to our restaurants, resorts, and businesses,” said Beth Oltman, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce in a statement released yesterday. “Passage of the RESTORE Act will not only put the Gulf Coast on the path to revitalize our precious natural resources but also to mend our economy.”

“The long-term viability of the Gulf is dependent upon preserving its coast. The economy and security of the nation is significantly dependent upon the Gulf,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. in a written statement. “With this interdependence in mind, passing the RESTORE Act is both a regional and national imperative.”

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Louisiana Senate Finance Committee actions could derail future coastal restoration funding

| Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, RESTORE Act

A proposed constitutional amendment introduced this week in the Louisiana Legislature that would require fines from the gulf oil spill to go into a coastal protection and restoration fund has been radically changed while under consideration by the Senate Finance Committee. The committee added language in the form of an amendment offered by Senator Edwin Murray in coordination with  Senate President John Alario that would give legislators authority to redirect money to other pursuits, effectively derailing the intent of the legislation, which was to use oil spill fines to repair the damaged wetlands around the Mississippi River Delta.

Louisiana residents should contact their state senator today and tell him or her that the Senate Finance Committee amendment must be removed from HB 812. The committee has burdened the proposed legislation with unnecessary bureaucracy and has broadened the use of these funds beyond the original intention. The oil spill damaged the delta’s wetlands. It’s only right that the fines collected from BP and other responsible parties be reinvested into making the coast whole again. Contact information for state senators can be found here: http://senate.la.gov/senators/CurrentMaps.asp.

Last week, we commended the Louisiana Legislature for unanimously passing the 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, a bold step forward that outlines a suite of restoration projects that could create up to 800 square miles of wetlands around the Mississippi River Delta over fifty years. With projected costs for the plan totaling some $50 billion, the state must now tackle funding for the projects. One potential source of funding is the RESTORE Act, a Congressional bill that, if passed, would dedicate 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines from the gulf oil disaster to Gulf Coast states for restoration.

More encouraging news came with the introduction of House Bills 812 and 838, the amendments that would go before Louisiana voters to dedicate RESTORE Act fines to the Coastal Master Plan. The idea of a constitutional amendment enjoys wide public support. In a poll conducted in April by Southern Media and Opinion Research, 79% of voters surveyed indicated they would vote yes on a constitutional amendment to dedicate RESTORE Act fines to Coastal Master Plan projects.

The proposed change to the House Bill that the Senate Finance Committee has put forth, however, could disrupt the progress the state has made thus far by allowing legislators to use funds that would otherwise go to coastal restoration for other purposes.

With Congress currently considering the RESTORE Act, which is so close to passage, Louisiana’s message to Congress must be clear — that oil spill penalty money will be spent on coastal restoration and nothing else. Louisiana must show its strong commitment to ease and reverse its staggering land-loss rates through funding the broad-based restoration projects in the Coastal Master Plan.

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Coastal Master Plan passes another legislative milestone

May 16, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Congress

Update on Louisiana's 2012 Coastal Master Plan:

Earlier today, the Louisiana House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources and Environment unanimously approved the 2012 Coastal Master Plan (CR 46) and Annual State Coastal Protection and Restoration Plan (CR 41). On Monday, both plans passed the House Transportation Committee by a vote of 11-0. The next and final step for the master plan is consideration by the full Louisiana House of Representatives, which will likely happen early next week.

The Coastal Master Plan lays out a bold 50-year vision for protecting and restoring Louisiana's coastal area. Earlier this month, the Louisiana State Senate passed the master plan and sent it to the House for review. Be sure to follow our Delta Dispatches blog for more updates.

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Louisiana House Transportation Committee approves Coastal Master Plan

May 14, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, Congress

Today, the Louisiana State House of Representatives Transportation Committee unanimously approved the 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan (SCR 46) and Annual State Coastal Protection and Restoration Plan (SCR 41). Last week, the Louisiana State Senate also approved both plans. The Coastal Master Plan lays out a 50-year vision for protecting and restoring Louisiana’s coastal resources and communities. Next, the master plan will go on to the House Natural Resources committee for approval. Check back over the coming days for updates on the plan’s progress through the Louisiana State Legislature.

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Restoring the Lower 9th Ward: A resilient vision for New Orleans

May 7, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Community Resiliency, Congress, Hurricane Katrina, People, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act, Videos

This post was originally published on the National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Promise blog.

By Amanda Moore, National Wildlife Federation’s Coastal Louisiana Organizer in New Orleans

What would you do if, in one day, you lost everything? I’m not just talking about your personal possessions; I’m talking about your entire community — your church, your grocery store, your school. The folks you meet in the video below, Warrenetta Banks and John Taylor, have lived out this scenario every day since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 and have chosen to respond with passion and dedication to recovery — advocating for smart, green urban planning on one side of the levee and a healthy wetland ecosystem on the other side of the levee.

Warrenetta and John are both lifelong residents of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. In the years since the catastrophic flooding, they’ve helped their community recover to be one of the “greenest” in the nation — solar panels, community gardens, and LEED certified homes are typical encounters as you walk down the street. That’s on one side of the levee.

Residents like Warrenetta and John understand all too well that the wetland ecosystem on the other side of the levee is critical to their future and safety. Healthy wetlands serve as a buffer to storm surges and winds and help the levees do their job to protect communities. National Wildlife Federation is one organization working closely with the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development (where Warrenetta and John work) to plan and gain funding for restoration of the 400-acre cypress swamp bordering the community (featured in the video) as well as the entire 58,000 acres wetland ecosystem the swamp is connected to, which once buffered much of the Greater New Orleans area from storms and provided important wildlife habitat.

Without healthy wetlands, coastal communities like the Lower Ninth Ward remain very vulnerable to disasters. Urgent funding is needed for restoration. The RESTORE Act, legislation now making its way through the U.S. Congress, will use a portion of Clean Water Act penalties from the BP disaster to fund projects that will restore Gulf Coast ecosystems, including wetlands that protect communities and provide critical habitat for gulf wildlife. Right now, you can make a difference in the future of the Gulf Coast. Learn more about the RESTORE Act and share your voice!

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RESTORE Act passes with House transportation vote, now moves to conference

April 30, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, RESTORE Act

By Whit Remer, Environmental Defense Fund

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives included Rep. Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) RESTORE Act amendment in their final version of the Surface Transportation Extension Act. The RESTORE Act is legislation that would dedicate 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines from the BP gulf oil spill towards Gulf Coast restoration. Both the U.S. House and Senate have passed versions of bill.

The House passed the transportation bill by a vote of 293-127, setting up a conference with the Senate. During conference, select members from each chamber will work together to reconcile differences in the bills. Gulf Coast leaders have shown remarkable leadership in advancing the RESTORE Act to this point. Please continue to thank these members for their hard work and let your congressperson know that you want to see the RESTORE Act signed into law this summer.

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Conservation Groups Laud Funding for Restoration Efforts from Senate

April 26, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in Congress, Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), Media Resources, RESTORE Act, Senator Mary Landrieu

Federal funds will support critical restoration construction projects, jobs in Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:   
Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, eskree@edf.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, guidrye@nwf.org
Kevin Chandler, National Audubon Society, 202.596.0960, kchandler@audubon.org

(Washington, D.C.—April 26, 2011) Today, five national and local conservation groups praised the Senate Appropriations Committee for approving funding for critical restoration projects in Louisiana, including an effort to use sediment dredged from navigation waterways to recreate critical wetlands. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would receive $16.8 million for the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) program to begin construction on LCA ecosystem restoration projects and $9.3 million to study future projects. This funding was part of President Obama’s budget request and was strongly supported by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

"This funding is an important step forward in helping restore critical wetlands around the Mississippi River Delta, as well as helping create new jobs in Louisiana. This is a win-win for the environment and the economy,” said the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation in a joint statement. "Thanks to the Appropriations Committee and Sen. Landrieu, these restoration projects will put sediment from the Mississippi River back to use creating wetlands that act as a speed bump for hurricanes and a natural storm buffer for communities.”

“We hope Congress will include this funding in the final version of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill,” the groups continued. “Taking these preventative actions now will make these areas less vulnerable to future disasters."

Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost more than 1,900 square miles of wetlands, an area roughly equivalent to the state of Delaware. 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

The federal funding was provided in the Senate Appropriations Committee Report on the FY13 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

More restoration projects like the ones funded through this budget request would be possible with passage of the RESTORE Act. The legislation would dedicate 80 percent of oil spill penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the 2010 oil spill towards gulf restoration. The RESTORE Act has received strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

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What does the 90-day transportation bill extension mean for the RESTORE Act?

April 2, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, RESTORE Act

By Whit Remer, Environmental Defense Fund

With a March 31 deadline quickly approaching, last Thursday (March 29), the U.S. House and Senate passed a 90-day extension to the surface transportation bill. This extension means we will need to continue working hard to ensure the RESTORE Act stays alive and is included in the final version of the bill.

Oiled vegetation in Pass a Loutre, La. May 22, 2010. Credit: NOAA.

The RESTORE Act is legislation that would dedicate 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines from the gulf oil spill toward gulf environmental and economic restoration. Earlier this month, we reported a big win for the RESTORE Act after the Senate approved it as an amendment to their version of a new two-year highway bill. This was an impressive bipartisan win, with 76 senators voting yes on the amendment.

Last week's extension signals that the House did not agree to the terms proposed in the two-year Senate bill. The extension gives the two chambers an extra three months to craft a bill that both the House and Senate can agree on. While nothing is certain during the next three months, it is important to remember all the wins the RESTORE Act has had thus far — wins that both sides will have difficulty forgetting while moving forward on a final version of the transportation bill.

In February, House Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) introduced and passed an amendment dedicating 80 percent of expected Clean Water Act penalties from the spill towards gulf restoration. In the Senate, the RESTORE Act passed out of the Environment and Public Works Committee in September, and just weeks ago, the Senate overwhelmingly approved it as an amendment. When Congress begins to put together a long-term transportation bill, they must not forget these important wins.

The RESTORE Act is still alive and well, especially in the minds of Congress and those in the gulf who need it most. Now, perhaps more than ever, we need to encourage Congress to continue fighting for oil spill restoration in the gulf. Without action on the RESTORE Act in the new transportation bill, the Gulf Coast may lose out on desperately needed restoration funding. We must continue to energize the Gulf Coast delegation and let them know how much the RESTORE Act means to the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast.

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