Archive for Senator Mary Landrieu


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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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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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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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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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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Groups hail Senate passage of transportation bill with gulf restoration amendment

March 14, 2012 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, RESTORE Act, Senator Mary Landrieu

Vote follows recent House approval of efforts to dedicate oil spill fines to gulf restoration

(Washington, D.C.—March 14, 2012) A coalition of six Gulf Coast restoration advocacy groups praised the Senate today for passing the Surface Transportation bill with an amendment that would dedicate 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines from BP and the other parties responsible for the Gulf oil spill to restoring the Gulf Coast. The current transportation bill expires on March 31.

The amendment, called the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act, is historic legislation that the full Senate passed last week with support from 76 senators, including every Senate Democrat and half of the Senate’s Republicans. The Senate’s approval of the RESTORE Act, whose lead sponsors include Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), follows the House's recent approval of a similar RESTORE Act amendment sponsored by  Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) that was attached to the House transportation bill.

“Faith leaders, conservationists and sportsmen, and strong majorities of voters from both ends of the political spectrum in Gulf states and across the nation agree that it just makes sense for the fines from the Gulf spill to come back to help repair the economic and environmental damage done to the Gulf,” said a joint statement issued by Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy and Oxfam America. “We thank the Senate leaders who have made this victory possible for the Gulf. Now we look forward to Congress passing, and the President signing into law, the final transportation bill with the RESTORE Act.”

The RESTORE Act will ensure that penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster are used to rebuild the economies of Gulf Coast communities that were impacted by the spill and to restore the natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, barrier islands, dunes, and coastal wetlands, that are the foundation of the Gulf Coast economy.

A nationwide poll of 1,006 likely general election voters conducted by the Democratic firm, Lake Research Partners, and the GOP firm, Bellwether Research and Consulting, showed that the vast majority of U.S. voters (84 percent) believe the Gulf Coast — including the Mississippi River Delta — impacts the nation’s economy. Nearly two-thirds of those voters (63 percent) believe this region impacts the economy in their part of the country.

Contacts:
Sean Crowley, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.572.3331, scrowley@edf.org
David J. Ringer, National Audubon Society, 601.642.7058, dringer@audubon.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, guidrye@nwf.org
Heather Layman, The Nature Conservancy, 703.475.1733, hlayman@tnc.org
David Willett, Ocean Conservancy, 202.351.0465, dwillett@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, Oxfam America, 617.785-7047, Ablejwas@oxfamamerica.org

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Senate will vote on RESTORE Act amendment today

March 8, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth Skree in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, RESTORE Act, Senator Mary Landrieu

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."

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Gulf Senators Praised for Cosponsoring Bill to Restore Gulf

July 21, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Rastegar in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, Federal Policy, Media Resources, Senator David Vitter, Senator Mary Landrieu

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Contacts:

Sean Crowley, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.572.3331, scrowley@edf.org
David J. Ringer, National Audubon Society, 601.642.7058, dringer@audubon.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, guidrye@nwf.org
Sandra Rodriguez, The Nature Conservancy, 703.841.4227, srodriguez@tnc.org
David Willett, Ocean Conservancy, 202.351.0465, dwillett@oceanconservancy.org
Patrick Scully, Oxfam America, 617.728.2402, pscully@oxfamamerica.org

Gulf Senators Praised for Cosponsoring Bill to Restore Gulf

Bill dedicates oil spill fines to restore Gulf communities, economies & ecosystems

(Washington, D.C.—July 21, 2011) A coalition of organizations supporting Gulf restoration celebrated news today that a bipartisan coalition of Gulf senators is cosponsoring the RESTORE Gulf Coast States Act. The legislation seeks to ensure that penalties paid by BP and others responsible for last year’s Gulf oil disaster are used to help restore the region’s communities, economies and environments instead of going to unrelated federal spending.

Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) are the original cosponsors of the bill, and are now joined by Sens. David Vitter (R-LA), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Kay Bailey-Hutchison (R-TX). Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who was instrumental in securing the agreement among the senators, has pledged to consider this bill in her committee quickly.

“The damage from the oil spill was done in the Gulf, so Congress should ensure that oil spill fines go to the Gulf, not to unrelated federal spending,” reads a joint statement issued by Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy and Oxfam America. “This Gulf state agreement paves the way for Congress to do what voters expect: hold the parties responsible for the Gulf oil disaster accountable for restoring the Gulf because our nation’s economy depends on a healthy Gulf region.”

A bipartisan poll conducted this spring showed that 83 percent of voters nationwide support – and 69 percent strongly support – dedicating the Gulf oil spill penalties to restoring the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast. The poll also showed support among voters from across the political spectrum:

  • 90 percent of Democrats
  • 84 percent of independents
  • 76 percent of Republicans
  • 78 percent of those who say they agree with the Tea Party movement

Nearly 500 miles – almost half – of the coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida that was contaminated by the Gulf oil disaster remains oiled one year later, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.

“There is much more work to be done to ensure that a strong and effective restoration bill for the Gulf ultimately becomes law and this is a positive and commendable first step. We look forward to working with the Gulf delegation, other members of Congress and the administration on passage of a bill that meets the restoration needs of this critical ecosystem and its vulnerable communities,” the statement concludes.

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On BP Oil Disaster Anniversary, Groups Urge Congress to Use Fines to Restore Gulf Environment and Economy

April 20, 2011 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Congress, Meetings/Events, Senator David Vitter, Senator Mary Landrieu

An oil-soaked brown pelican washes ashore on Grand Isle, Louisiana (May 21, 2010). Photo credit: Yuki Kokubo, www.yukikokubo.net

On the first anniversary of the BP oil well blowout, regional and national leaders urged Congress to hold BP accountable by passing legislation to dedicate BP’s Clean Water Act (CWA) fines to restoring the Gulf’s damaged environment and economy.

Under current law, fines paid by BP and others responsible for the spill automatically will be deposited into the Federal Treasury, instead of being used to help restore the Gulf region.

U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and David Vitter (R-La.), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) have introduced four separate bills that would dedicate 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines to restore the Gulf Coast’s environment and economy.

“These members of Congress deserve credit for recognizing that BP’s fines for the oil spill should be invested in restoring the Gulf, where the damage was done, not in the Federal Treasury,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.  “The environment and economy of the Gulf region rely on each other to be strong and vibrant.  We’re calling on leaders in Congress, particularly from the Gulf region, to get together and get restoration done for the Gulf.”

The anniversary event featured a boat tour to show oil spill damage in Barataria Bay and Bay Jimmy and aerial tours of Wax Lake Delta, which shows that rebuilding wetlands is possible.  The Wax Lake Delta is the unexpected creation of a 1941 flood control project in which the Army Corps of Engineers dug a canal to Atchafalaya Bay from the Atchafalaya River.  As a result, the Atchafalaya River sediment built 25 square miles of new land in the Wax Lake Outlet.

“The Gulf is injured certainly, and will be for some time, but it is not without the possibility of recovery in the long term” said Chris Canfield, vice president of Gulf Coast Conservation and the Mississippi Flyway for the National Audubon Society.  “If we can marshal the energy of fear and concern we all felt a year ago and turn it into resolve – into a Congressional mandate for Gulf restoration – we can do wonders.”

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)

“Without a strong and shared vision by our regional congressional delegations to dedicate fines to the Gulf Coast states, fine monies will wash away into the Federal Treasury,” said Anne Milling, founder of Women of the Storm.  "We thank Representatives Scalise and Castor and Senators Landrieu, Vitter and Nelson for their bipartisan unity on this crucial issue, and we encourage other members of Congress to follow their example."

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)

“Given our huge budget deficit, Clean Water Act fines are the most viable, short-term funding mechanism for the long-term restoration of the Gulf Coast that President Obama promised ten months ago ‘to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region’,” said Paul Harrison, senior director of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Project for Environmental Defense Fund.  “Congress must hold BP accountable for the environmental and economic damage it caused from the worst oil spill in U.S. history by dedicating the Clean Water Act fines to Gulf Coast restoration and ensuring BP pays the bill for the Natural Resources Damage Assessment.”

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