Archive for RESTORE Act


$52.2 million in oil spill funds approved for Louisiana coastal restoration

December 15, 2015 | Posted by Delta Dispatches in 2012 Coastal Master Plan, BP Oil Disaster, coastal restoration, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

By Elizabeth Weiner, Senior Policy Manager, Environmental Defense Fund

4689SecPritzkerWebCr Robert smith wildlife Mississippi

Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce and Chair of the RESTORE Council. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

Last week, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council approved its first Funded Priorities List (FPL) of projects and programs to fund with civil penalties available from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Transocean settlement. This is an important step forward for the entire Gulf Coast that is still recovering from the spill. In particular for the Mississippi River Delta, the FPL demonstrates both the state of Louisiana’s commitment to funding Coastal Master Plan projects with RESTORE dollars and progress in implementing the master plan.

Louisiana submitted five project proposals, all of which are projects from the Coastal Master Plan. While these projects are still in planning phases, they represent critical near-term opportunities to keep the Mississippi River Delta on its path to recovery and sustainability. The Louisiana master plan projects receiving funding include:

Two additional projects, Jean Lafitte Canal Backfilling ($8.7 million; implementation) and Bayou Dularge Ridge, Marsh and Hydrologic Restoration ($5.2 million; planning), are also located in Louisiana and were included in the Council’s FPL. These two projects, submitted for funding by federal members of the RESTORE Council, are complementary to and consistent with the Coastal Master Plan and will directly benefit coastal Louisiana.

The RESTORE Council meeting in Biloxi, Miss. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

The RESTORE Council meeting in Biloxi, Miss. Dec. 9, 2015. Credit: Robert Smith/Wildlife Mississippi

The finalization of this FPL comes in follow-up to positive progress made through other Gulf oil spill funding streams – the National Fish and Wildlife Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, created by criminal plea agreements with multiple responsible parties, and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDA) process.

Now that BP’s settlement of civil penalties and responsibilities under NRDA is pending, both the RESTORE Council and the NRDA Trustee Council will be able to make even more progress, with an eye toward large-scale restoration. For the RESTORE Council, the next step will be an update to its Initial Comprehensive Plan to improve decision-making, project selection, and to consider the projects planned and funded through the other oil spill funding streams. For the NRDA Trustees, their next step will be considering public comments and finalizing the draft Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan.

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RESTORE Council Votes to Approve Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

December 9, 2015 | Posted by jhebert in BP Oil Disaster, Federal Policy, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Media Resources, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

RESTORE Council Votes to Approve Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

(December 9, 2015 – Biloxi, Miss.) Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council voted to approve its first Funded Priorities List (FPL) – a compilation of restoration projects the Council will prioritize for funding and implementation following the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. This set of projects will be funded by a portion of RESTORE Act dollars designated for ecosystem restoration from the Transocean Clean Water Act settlement.

National and local conservation organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:

“We congratulate the RESTORE Council and staff on their efforts to finalize this Funded Priorities List. Our organizations look forward to continuing to monitor projects as they move into the implementation phase.

“Additionally, now that the BP settlement is near final, the RESTORE Council and the Gulf states have a tremendous opportunity ahead to achieve broader meaningful restoration and lasting resilience for the essential ecosystems of the Gulf. However, with certainty around funding levels, the Council will be faced with difficult decisions. In order to make progress toward comprehensive restoration, the Council will need a science-based process for prioritizing future projects, with a focus on more large-scale proposals. With the first BP settlement payments on the horizon, it is essential that the Council promptly turn its attention to updating the Comprehensive Plan, so that it can serve as a tool to guide future investments around the Gulf. We stand ready to assist the Council and staff as they undertake this critical next step.”

Media Contact:

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, rguillory@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, johnlopez@saveourlake.org

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Governor Jindal’s Plan to Redirect Coastal Restoration Funding is Bad for Louisiana

October 9, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), coastal restoration, Media Resources, RESTORE Act, Restore the Coast

Governor Jindal’s Plan to Redirect Coastal Restoration Funding is Bad for Louisiana

Conservation Groups Launch Ad Campaign Opposing Jindal Funding Proposal

(New Orleans – Oct. 9, 2015) A coalition of local and national conservation groups will sponsor paid print and online advertisements in newspapers across south Louisiana this weekend opposing Governor Bobby Jindal’s proposal to redirect money from the Coastal Master Plan to fund the elevation of Louisiana Highway 1.

The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition – which includes Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation – implores in the ads “Protect our Coastal Master Plan funding. Tell the Governor NO.”

By asking the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority to use any “excess” restoration funds to pay for elevating LA-1, Gov. Jindal is trying to walk away from the state’s commitment to preserve coastal funding for projects in the state’s Master Plan.

“While the money from the BP criminal and civil fines will jumpstart our efforts to restore the coast, it won’t come close to finishing the job. That is why it’s crucial to protect every dime of restoration money,” said Steve Cochran, campaign director for Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition. “Redirecting funds is a slippery slope that weakens our state’s credibility, threatens our ability to secure future funding and puts our future at risk.”

The print advertisements will run in the Times-Picayune, The Advocate, Plaquemines Gazette, St. Bernard Voice, Daily Comet, Houma Courier and The (Lafayette) Advertiser.

The coalition is also urging the public to write Gov. Jindal in opposition to his plan and to speak out against the proposal at the Oct. 21 meeting of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority in Baton Rouge, when the issue is scheduled to be considered. For more information, visit ProtectTheFunding.org.

The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition has also launched the “Restore the Coast” community engagement campaign to highlight the important role Louisiana’s elected officials play in coastal restoration. This multifaceted, nonpartisan education campaign asks voters to sign a pledge urging leaders to: be a voice for coastal restoration, protect existing and secure future coastal restoration funding, and support Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan. Learn more at RestoreTheCoast.org.

Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition is a joint effort of non-profit organizations made up of science, public policy, economics and outreach experts working to raise awareness and build support for science-based solutions to restore Louisiana’s coast.

Contacts

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.767.4181, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, jlopez@saveourlake.org

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Conservation Groups Pleased to See Gulf Restoration Efforts Advance

October 5, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Federal Policy, Media Resources, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), RESTORE Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.767.4181, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, jlopez@saveourlake.org

Conservation Groups Pleased to See Gulf Restoration Efforts Advance

NRDA Trustees Release 1,500-Page Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan

(NEW ORLEANS – October 5, 2015) Today, the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees released their draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (DARP) for the Gulf of Mexico following the 2010 oil disaster. The U.S. Department of Justice, BP and the five Gulf states also released their proposed Consent Decree to finalize the $20.8 billion agreement in principle resolving state and federal government claims against BP from the Gulf oil disaster.

In response to these announcements, national and local conservation organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement:

“More than five years after the oil disaster, we are encouraged to see Gulf restoration move forward with release of the NRDA Trustees’ draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan. While we have not yet engaged on the details of the plan, we applaud the Trustees for their work to get to this point.

“The oil disaster damaged hundreds of miles of shoreline; killed more than one million birds, mammals and other wildlife – and we will not know the full environmental effects of the spill for decades to come. The NRDA process will help bring the Gulf back to the state it was before the spill, and the release of this plan is a positive step toward that end. It is also encouraging to see the concept of maximizing sediment delivery included in the DARP, and the recognition of the potential value of that approach through river diversions.

“We are also pleased to see forward movement on finalizing the settlement with BP. Once the consent decree is approved, it will provide a steady funding stream to the Gulf – funds that are vital to the restoration and long-term ecological health of the region. In Louisiana, this money will help fund the state’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast.

“The health of the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast ecosystems is important not only to the communities and economies of the region, but to the entire nation that depends on the Gulf for ports, energy, seafood, tourism and other important industries.

“Today’s announcements get us one step closer to realizing a restored and revitalized Gulf Coast. We look forward to working with the NRDA Trustees on finalizing their plans.”

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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. Composed 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 New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Washington, D.C.; and around the United States. Learn more at MississippiRiverDelta.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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MRD Priority Restoration Projects Included in Restore Council's Initial Draft Funded Priorities List

September 27, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 19 Priority Projects, coastal restoration, Community Resiliency, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Meetings/Events, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

By Helen Rose Patterson, Greater New Orleans Outreach Coordinator, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition

Last week, the RESTORE Council completed the last of six public meetings about their draft Initial Funded Priorities List. Restore the Mississippi River Delta staff attended the meeting in New Orleans on the University of New Orleans campus.

Justin Ehrenwerth, executive director of the RESTORE Council, provided a brief overview of the Council-selected priority watersheds in the Gulf and a more detailed explanation of the projects in Louisiana. Attendees were then given a chance to address the council. The comments were generally positive and tended in the direction of ‘let’s get started rebuilding the coast.’

The seven proposed Louisiana projects include four that are part of Restore the Mississippi River Delta’s list of nineteen priority projects:

  1. Golden Triangle Marsh Creation will provide further protection to New Orleans’ surge barrier and improve the estuary habitat in Lake Borgne.
  2. The Biloxi Marsh Living Shoreline project will provide planning dollars to restore the important habitat and reduce shoreline erosion in the area.
  3. The Mississippi River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp will provide further planning funds for a freshwater diversion from the Mississippi River into the Maurepas swamp which will improve wetland health and provide protection for communities to the west of Lake Pontchartrain.
  4. Finally, the West Grand Terre Beach Nourishment and Stabilization project, part of the larger Barataria Pass to Sandy Point Restoration priority project, would provide for planning to restore and enhance dune and back barrier marsh habitat on West Grand Terre to address shoreline erosion and marsh subsidence.

 

The FPL also includes other projects important to the Mississippi River Delta, such as canal backfilling in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve and funding for improved study of management of the lowermost Mississippi River.

We appreciate the inclusion of these projects and hope it is just the Council’s first step in addressing long-standing issues in the Mississippi River Delta. We also appreciate that the Council has gone to great lengths to leverage funding from other sources as this will maximize the impact of their investments. Moving forward, we would like to see a more transparent process for the selection and prioritization of projects. We believe that the priorities found in the RESTORE Act should be at the forefront of the Council’s project selection framework and we encourage them to elaborate on how these priorities were integrated into the process of creating this list. We hope that moving forward, project lists will be more focused on large-scale, multi-year projects to more fully achieve the goals of the RESTORE Act.

Citizens have until September 28th to provide comments on the projects. Those comments can be submitted by emailing restorecouncil@restorethegulf.gov or mailing to: Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. Attention: Draft FPL Comments, Hale Boggs Federal Building, 500 Poydras Street, Suite 1117, New Orleans, LA 70130.

You can show your support for coastal restoration by taking the pledge to urge leaders to be a powerful voice for coastal restoration. Take the pledge at RestoretheCoast.org

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RESTORE Council Releases Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

August 13, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in Federal Policy, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Media Resources, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 Contact:
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, rguillory@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, johnlopez@pobox.com

 

RESTORE Council Releases Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

National and Local Conservation Groups Call List Positive Step Forward; Tremendous Opportunity Ahead for Long-Lasting Restoration with BP Settlement

(New Orleans – August 13, 2015) Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council released its Funded Priorities List (FPL) – a compilation of restoration projects the Council intends to prioritize for funding following the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. These projects will be funded by a portion of RESTORE Act dollars designated for ecosystem restoration from the Transocean Clean Water Act settlement. The announced list is now open for a public comment period, with comments due September 28, 2015. The Council will also hold public meetings on the FPL in each of the Gulf states.

National and local conservation organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:

“While we haven’t yet engaged on the details of the list, we are encouraged to see this first Funded Priorities List moving forward into the public comment period, and we congratulate the RESTORE Council and staff for their efforts to reach this point. The RESTORE Act is focused on comprehensive restoration for the Gulf of Mexico, and our organizations are eager to see strong projects progress to actual construction and implementation.

“With a final BP settlement on the horizon, the RESTORE Council and the Gulf states have a tremendous opportunity ahead to plan for and achieve meaningful restoration and lasting resilience for the essential ecosystems of the Gulf. Our organizations look forward to reviewing and providing comments on this first project list over the coming weeks and working with the Council on the next, more comprehensive FPL process.”

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Ten Years after Katrina, What the BP Settlement Means for Louisiana Restoration

July 16, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in 19 Priority Projects, 5 Years Later, BP Oil Disaster, Community Resiliency, Diversions, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricanes, K10, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act, Science

By Steve Cochran, Director, Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program, Environmental Defense Fund

Ten years ago, just after Hurricane Katrina, I was asked to talk to Environmental Defense Fund’s board about the place where I grew up, the New Orleans area that had been hit so hard.

I remember two things about that discussion. One was my voice breaking unexpectedly (and embarrassingly) as we talked through pictures of the Katrina aftermath and came across places I intimately knew.

As an adult, I had developed a love/hate relationship with my home – loving the beauty, the people, the community and the culture, but frustrated by what I saw as the general tolerance of mediocrity and corrupt politics that limited its possibilities. That frustration had pushed the love down, and I had moved away. But there it was again. Sometimes you don’t know how much you care.

The second thing I remember was saying that the Katrina response was a deep test of our governments – local, state and national. As we know now, in that moment, it was a test they failed. But fast forward to July 2, 2015, the day a global settlement was announced in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill case. It was a day when governments rose to the occasion. The result was literally the largest environmental settlement in U.S. history.

The BP Settlement and Louisiana Coastal Restoration

Under the agreement, Louisiana will receive more than a third of the money – $6.8 billion of the $18.7 billion, and $5.8 billion of that is specifically targeted to restoration. The overall restoration total for Louisiana will likely be just under $8 billion, including early restoration dollars and criminal settlements.

These are significant resources at a critical time. Land loss across the coast of Louisiana, exacerbated by the spill, continues at a fearful rate. But we are making progress against that loss, and with the solid state commitment that now exists, and effective plans in place, these resources will allow us to battle back in earnest, with a clear-eyed view toward success.

In particular, the state plans to re-engage the enormous power of the Mississippi River and its sediment through a series of sediment diversions – using the natural land-building capacity of the river by reconnecting it to the delta it originally built. This science-based, innovative approach is the critical piece in our ability to provide solutions at a scale that can match the challenges in the Mississippi River Delta – now the largest restoration effort under way in the world.

Rebuilding Our Coast to Protect Our Communities

About a month after the spill, I was allowed to sit in on a tribal council of the indigenous United Houma Nation. As the oil continued to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, which it would do for another two months, I listened and watched as a man described, through a quiet voice and uncontrolled tears, how he had always looked to the waters of the Gulf and drawn confidence, knowing he could always provide for his family by accepting its gifts. But now all he could feel was fundamental fear.

Money can’t replace that kind of loss any more than it can bring back the 11 loved ones who lost their lives in the accident.

But we must do what we can – and in that context, the BP settlement is a tremendous step forward, because we can restore the Mississippi River Delta, so it can protect this area in the future.

Details matter, of course, and details remain to be decided as the Agreement in Principle is turned into a consent decree. We need to remain involved and vigilant. But it does seem clear that this agreement combines avoiding years of litigation with levels of funding that can truly make a difference.

With these resources, we can go to work to make sure that the largest environmental settlement in our nation’s history also becomes the most meaningful settlement in a place that, well, I love.

 

 

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Deepwater Horizon Settlement – Some Answers, New Questions

July 8, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Federal Policy, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), RESTORE Act

This information was originally posted on the Environmental Law Institute's website. 
By ELI Gulf Team

On July 2, 2015, a monumental announcement was made: an agreement in principle has been reached to settle all federal and state claims against BP arising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill for $18.732 billion (see BP’s press release here). This amount includes:

BP-Settlement-breakdown

 

While we are still waiting on the exact details of the settlement, we do know some of the terms. We will focus on the natural resource damages and Clean Water Act civil penalties (specifically the RESTORE Act) here, considering:

1. What do we know?
2. What were the potential damages or penalties?
3. What information is still missing?

Note that this agreement is by no means final: the details still need to be hammered out and, once they are, they will be set out in a consent decree, which will be open for public comment before it goes to the court for final approval.

Natural Resource Damages (NRD)

As a refresher, a Natural Resource Damage Assessment is a process focused on restoring natural resources injured by an oil spill. The goal is to restore the resources to the condition they would have been in had the oil spill not occurred (called “baseline”). This process is led by government representatives called “trustees.” The parties responsible for the spill pay for, among other things, the costs of restoration.

1. What do we know?

BP has agreed to pay $7.1 billion in natural resource damages. This is in addition to the $1 billion already committed for early restoration. The $8.1 billion total is divided as follows:

NRD-Funding

 

Louisiana will receive the bulk of the funding (over 60%). Notably, over $1 billion will go to open ocean projects, which have not received a substantial amount of funding under early restoration.

A few additional notes:

  • The money will be paid out over 15 years
  • Interest will accrue on the unpaid balance; this interest is payable the year after the last NRD payment, but the Gulf states and federal government may request payment of the accrued interest after 10 years to address unknown natural resource damages
  • An additional $232 million will be made available for unknown natural resource damages the year after the $7.1 billion is paid
  • An additional $350 million will be paid for costs related to assessing the natural resource damages

2. What were the potential damages?

Natural resource damages were in the process of being assessed when the agreement was announced. Evaluation of damages is complicated, and we will know more about the quantification of damages after more information is released (much of it was confidential due to the potential for litigation).

3. What information is still missing?

There is still information we do not know, including:

  • The terms under which the interest can be accessed early
  • The terms under which the additional $232 million can be accessed
  • What types of restoration projects will be chosen
  • The timeline for the restoration plan(s) and implementing projects

As for participation opportunities, in addition to commenting on the terms of the consent decree, there will be opportunities for the public to comment on the restoration plan(s) and projects. We will post these opportunities on our Public Participation Bulletin Board as they arise.

RESTORE Act

As a refresher, the RESTORE Act diverts 80% of Clean Water Act civil and administrative penalties collected as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the Gulf for restoration and recovery. The funds go to five different “pots” (learn more here).

1. What do we know?

BP has agreed to pay $5.5 billion in Clean Water Act civil penalties, which means that $4.4 billion (80% of $5.5 billion) will flow through RESTORE. The graph below shows how this $4.4 billion will be allocated:

RESTORE-Funding-chart

 

Among the states, Louisiana is slated to receive the most RESTORE Act funding (18% of the RESTORE funds). Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi will receive around 14% of the RESTORE funds, with Texas receiving 10%.

A few additional notes:

  • The money will be paid out over 15 years
  • Interest will accrue on the balance, payable the year the last RESTORE Act payment is made
  • Adding the $4.4 billion to the $800 million already flowing through RESTORE (from the Transocean settlement), a total of $5.2 billion has now been obligated to RESTORE

2. What were the potential penalties?

BP’s Clean Water Act civil penalties were the subject of ongoing litigation (see our post on the trial here). The court had not released a decision on the penalty amount before the settlement announcement. At the time of the announcement, BP faced a $13.7 billion maximum penalty.

3. What information is still missing?

At this time, we don’t know how the states will spend their share of the funding and what their priorities will be (though Louisiana is expected to fund projects from its Coastal Master Plan). We also don’t know what types of projects the RESTORE Council will prioritize for funding.

As for participation opportunities, in addition to commenting on the consent decree, there will be state-specific and Gulf-wide participation opportunities. We will track these on our Public Participation Bulletin Board.

New Questions

Once the details of the agreement are fleshed out, there will be answers to many of our remaining questions. A number of questions will nonetheless persist – particularly on which projects will be chosen and how they will be implemented. It is therefore essential that the public remain involved and participate as the restoration processes move forward. While the agreement represents a monumental step forward, it is just the start of a long recovery road ahead.

For more information on the Environmental Law Institute's Ocean Program, click here.

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Gulf Restoration Groups Ready to Put Billions to Work to Bring Back Gulf

July 2, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in BP Oil Disaster, Clean Water Act, Federal Policy, Media Resources, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), RESTORE Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781, schatzele@nwf.org
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849, jhebert@audubon.org
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543, evancleve@edf.org
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816, rguillory@oceanconservancy.org
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047, ablejwas@tnc.org
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046, jimmy.frederick@crcl.org
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348, johnlopez@pobox.com

Gulf Restoration Groups Ready to Put Billions to Work to Bring Back Gulf

Region’s economy and well-being are based on strong, resilient ecosystem

(New Orleans, LA – July 2, 2015) National and local organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement in response to today’s announcement of an agreement in principle between the Gulf states, federal government and BP for its role in the largest U.S. offshore oil disaster in history. Although the settlement will not be finalized for several weeks, the agreement will dedicate billions of dollars to restore damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“In sharp contrast to the decades-long litigation following the Exxon Valdez spill, federal and state leaders have wasted no time in closing this case. Their swift work means meaningful restoration efforts are imminent. Their leadership, at this moment, is invaluable. 

While we await key details, one thing is clear: As soon as the settlement is final, it will be time to put that money to work. 

We need our leaders to make sure that every dime of this settlement is used as it is intended: to address oil spill impacts and repair long-standing ecosystem damage. We cannot afford to wait any longer. The Gulf ecosystem is the backbone of the local economy and our primary defense from storms during hurricane season. 

This settlement, which promises to be the largest environmental settlement in American history, is an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate and expand the response to the devastating harm caused by the spill, and to build lasting resilience into the essential ecosystems of the Gulf.

We are especially encouraged that the settlement will put special emphasis on restoring health to the Mississippi River Delta and its coastal wetlands. We also urge leaders in NOAA and other agencies to leverage resources from this settlement to restore marine resources.”

A recent infographic depicts ongoing impacts of the Gulf oil disaster five years later. And over the past year alone, new scientific research has surfaced:

  • A 2014 study found evidence of a 1,250-square-mile area of oil contamination on the ocean floor around the Macondo wellhead in deep Gulf sediments.
  • A previous NOAA study found a large number of dead dolphins in heavily oiled places, including Barataria Bay, La.
  • Recent studies estimate an unprecedented number of birds (upwards of 1 million) died as a result of being exposed to BP oil.
  • A 2014 study found concentrations of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) – which can cause harmful effects in many birds, fish and wildlife – in Barataria and Terrebonne marshes, which may persist for decades.
  • A 2012 study found that oiled marshes in Barataria Bay eroded at double the rate of non-oiled marshes.

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2015 Louisiana Legislative Session: Coastal Wrap-Up

June 22, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), RESTORE Act, State Legislature

By Cynthia Duet, Deputy Director, Audubon Louisiana

The 2015 session of the Louisiana Legislature has comeState Capitol to a close. Although the last two months have been filled with difficult decisions for lawmakers trying to balance the state budget during this important fiscal session, bills related to coastal restoration projects, programs and funding remained the primary focus of Mississippi River Delta Coalition policy staff.

The Louisiana Legislature demonstrated continued commitment to coastal restoration and protection issues by passing HCR1 –  the resolution that allows for passage of the 2015-2016 Coastal Annual Plan. The plan is the funding report and projections document that shows where, when and how funding will be expended on restoration of the coast for protection of the people, wildlife and industries of Louisiana. The resolution was sponsored by Representative Gordon Dove, Chairman of House Natural Resources Committee, recognized as a long-time coastal supporter from the Terrebonne area. He is now wrapping up his last term in the House.

There were many items monitored this session that either did or would have had an effect on the coastal fund and coastal habitats.  Some of the highlights are noted as follows:

  • House Concurrent Resolution 1 (HCR 1) – already mentioned, the funding vehicle for the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s 2015-2016 annual plan for integrated coastal protection and restoration passed with overwhelming support through both state houses. The Coastal Annual Plan funds coastal restoration and hurricane protection for a three-year period through the authorization of $884 million in spending towards new and existing projects. This authorization will fund some of the 19 priority projects for restoring Louisiana’s coast as identified by the Restore the Mississippi River Delta coalition.
  • HB 352 – This bill transferred oversight authority for a state-negotiated agreement allowing coastal landowners to retain their mineral rights into perpetuity if they donate their surface rights to a certified organization for the purposes of implementing a coastal integrated project.  The authority, established by legislation in 2006, was moved to CPRA from DNR, consistent with the current structure of the state’s coastal program. The bill is currently awaiting signature of the governor.
  • HB 288 – This bill sought to prohibit the importation and release of feral hogs and restrict the transportation of feral hogs, except by permit. The spread of feral hogs is linked to transport and release. The bill failed in committee. Feral hogs damage levees, destroy coastal marsh and other wildlife habitat, reduce crops, and prey upon livestock and wildlife.
  • HB 167 – This bill would have allowed nighttime hunting of feral hogs and coyotes year round on private property, including during deer and duck seasons. HB 167 did not pass out of Senate Natural Resources Committee due to concerns that the proposed changes to the law would make enforcement of illegal nighttime hunting incredibly difficult, essentially encouraging poaching. The law as it stands allows a landowner to control feral hogs on their property year round via a permit for nighttime hunting of feral hogs when night hunting is not legal during September through February. Both bills sought to address the exploding feral hog population, however, a more coordinated effort is needed to address this scourge on Louisiana’s landscape. The feral hog population is estimated at more than 500,000 and increasing every year.
  • SB 196 – This Senate Bill proposed a Constitutional Amendment to ask voters to repeal constitutional protections for funds including the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation Fund, Oilfield Site Restoration Fund, Oil Spill Contingency Fund, Artificial Reef Development Fund, and the Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund.
  • HB 523 – This proposed constitutional amendment to ask voters to repeal constitutional protection for a number of funds, including the Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund, Barrier Island Stabilization and Preservation Fund, and the Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund. As a reminder, all funds constitutionally protected went before the voters to approve that protection at some point.

There were several bills that, due to the state’s budget crisis, were being contemplated early in the session as a way to free up money to balance the $1.6 billion budget hole. The two bills proposing to remove constitutional protection for key funds failed to make it out of legislative committees. Fortunately, these items did not gain traction and the budget issues were handled in other ways, for now. However, there remains a need to stay ever vigilant during future sessions. The discussion about whether funds should be protected under the constitution or be free for lawmakers to apply to other uses will likely continue as the state grapples with expected budget challenges in the coming years.

In summary, as the 2015 fiscal session wrapped up, much concern still remains regarding the state’s budget, and the likelihood remains high that a special session may be called by the new administration at the beginning of 2016 to look for solutions. Amidst the obvious difficulties, coastal protection and restoration projects remain on the course that they have been on for several years, and the funding of projects from RESTORE Act and the GOMESA are closer than ever to becoming a reality to repair our damaged coastline.

For more information on the projects that can save Louisiana’s coast, please visit: http://www.mississippiriverdelta.org/restoration-projects/map/.

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