Senator Mary Landrieu introduces Representative Steve Scalise at an August 2012 ceremony recognizing the RESTORE Act's passage. (Image courtesy of Office of Senator Mary Landrieu)

The Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) dedicates 80 percent of all Clean Water Act penalties paid by those responsible for the 2010 gulf oil disaster to Gulf Coast restoration.

The RESTORE Act is important because without it, these funds would have gone to the U.S. Treasury and could have been used for spending unrelated to the disaster. Because BP could owe as much as $13.7 billion, the RESTORE Act is a huge win for the Gulf Coast.

Now that the RESTORE Act is signed into law, communities and ecosystems along the Gulf Coast are guaranteed funding to assist with recovery from one of the worst environmental disasters of our time.

How did the RESTORE Act come about?

The RESTORE Act was introduced in July 2011 by a bipartisan coalition of nine Gulf Coast senators. The legislation was prompted in part by two official reports on the spill, one by Navy Secretary and former Governor of Mississippi Ray Mabus and another from the bipartisan National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. Both reports recommended that Clean Water Act penalties from the spill be dedicated to Gulf Coast restoration. Given the devastation the spill caused in the Gulf, this was the only fair thing to do.

On July 6, 2012, after more than two years of work by legislators and advocates, the RESTORE Act was signed into law by the President. The law creates an essential framework for managing and financing the Gulf Coast's recovery and establishes a trust account that will receive 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties from the spill for Gulf Coast restoration.

Breakdown of RESTORE Act funding

As BP and other responsible parties pay fines under the Clean Water Act, the money will first be transferred to a trust fund. The money in this Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund will be allocated to the Gulf Coast states and Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council according to the following guidelines:

  • 30 percent for environmental restoration projects in the comprehensive plan, as determined by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.
  • 30 percent divided among the five Gulf states based on the Oil Spill Impact Allocation Formula.
  • 35 percent divided equally between the five Gulf states (7 percent to each) to be used for eligible restoration activities.
  • 2.5 percent dedicated to a Gulf Coast fisheries monitoring program.
  • 2.5 percent to establish Gulf Coast Centers of Excellence research centers.

Breakdown of RESTORE Act funding. Click to enlarge.

How does the RESTORE Act work?

Establishes the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council

The RESTORE Act established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council), which is comprised of governors from the five affected Gulf states, the Secretaries from the U.S. Departments of the Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, and Homeland Security as well as the Secretary of the Army and the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Gulf states recommended and President Obama appointed the Secretary of Commerce as the Council’s Chair.

Mandates a Gulf Coast Comprehensive Restoration Plan

One of the RESTORE Council's primary responsibilities is to develop a Comprehensive Plan to restore the ecosystem and the economy of the Gulf Coast region. The Council approved the Initial Comprehensive Plan in August, 2013. The RESTORE Act mandates that the restoration plan:

    • Restore and protect natural resources, ecosystems, fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, and wetlands of the Gulf Coast.
    • Prioritize large-scale projects that make the greatest contribution to ecological restoration.
    • Incorporate recommendations from existing plans, such as the Gulf of Mexico Regional Ecosystem Restoration Strategy and Louisiana Coastal Master Plan.
    • Be based on the best available science
    • Be updated every five years.

Thirty percent of the RESTORE Act funds will go to projects directly outlined in this plan. It is likely the restoration plan will include several sediment diversions, which have been shown to rebuild and sustain coastal environments in the Mississippi River Delta.

The RESTORE Council will also direct another 30 percent of the RESTORE Act's funding to the states through the Oil Spill Impact Allocation Formula, which is based on factors like population, miles of shoreline oiled and distance to the rig. This 30 percent will go toward eligible restoration activities consistent with the goals and objectives of the plan and must be approved by the Council.

The RESTORE Council is currently evaluating submissions for potential funding under the Council-Selected Restoration Component. Each State and federal member of the RESTORE Council was responsible for proposing restoration projects and programs for consideration by the RESTORE Council as a whole. In 2015, the RESTORE Council will develop a draft Funded Priorities List (FPL) that identifies the projects and programs that it has chosen to fund. The draft FPL will be made available for public review and comment. After careful consideration of public input, the RESTORE Council will make changes as appropriate, and finalize the FPL.

Louisiana Restoration Projects and Programs submitted to the RESTORE Council:

For more information on the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, click here.