What RESTORE means to the Gulf Coast…
Posted on June 29, 2012 by Casi Callaway, Executive Director, Mobile BayKeeper
RESTORE has officially passed independently through both the House (373-52) and the Senate (74-19). Once BP and the other parties responsible for releasing more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico settle the lawsuits, we will see between $5 and $21 billion dollars returned to the Gulf for real and significant restoration. We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to Senators Shelby and Sessions, Senators Landrieu (LA) and Nelson (FL). Though not on the Conference Committee, Congressman Jo Bonner carried the weight for Alabama on the House side.
This is an exciting day for the Gulf Coast. RESTORE (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy of the Gulf Coast) Act will bring 80% of the Clean Water Act penalties back to the Gulf Coast for Restoration. Without this legislation from Congress, the penalties would have gone into the Federal Treasury. We are excited to have those fines back to the Gulf Coast, where they are so critically needed for restoration. Projects like 100-1000: Restore Coastal Alabama, major restoration of the D’Olive Bay watershed, Three Mile Creek and Fowl River, road restoration projects like the Mobile Bay Causeway, stormwater restoration projects in both Mobile and Baldwin Counties, beach renourishment and fisheries enhancements are all real possibilities now.
The bill did not give us everything we asked, but RESTORE will fairly divide the fines BP will pay across the impacted states. Additionally, it keeps the funding focused on environmental restoration, and that has been an incredibly important part of this battle for Mobile Baykeeper and our coalition partners. The Transportation bill could have included some very bad provisions such as limiting our protection against toxic coal ash that were dropped. It also lost some very crucial protections, such as comprehensive environmental studies on major road projects and significant funding from other sources for environmental protection – Land and Water Conservation Fund. What we know is that every member of Congress had favorite pieces they wanted in or out, but the compromise we now see will enable shovels in the ground for meaningful restoration.
Thank you to each of you for making phone calls, writing letters, calling friends in other states to make them write and call. We are only ever as strong as our members are engaged, so please get and stay involved!
Tomorrow, we will focus on which projects are funded and ensuring a process that will enable public participation, but for now, we MUST CELEBRATE!!