Support Clean Water Act Penalities Returning to the Gulf Coast

 
Community members throughout the Gulf Coast are picking up their phones today to make calls into their Representative and Senate officials offices. The purpose of today's call in action is to support legislation that dedicates at least 80% of the Clean Water Act penalities resulting from the BP oil disaster to the Gulf Coast. Last Thursday the first piece of legislation with this objective was introduced into Congress.

Waterkeeper members of Save Our Gulf are continuing to pressure their federal Representatives and Senators to make sure this legislation is as strong as possible. Dan Tonsmiere, Apalachicola Riverkeeper, stated, "Passing this bill will help bring the Gulf back from this unbelievable disaster.  The hard work is ahead of us, but the funding is key to recovering this place on Earth for all of us and our children.  We can hope to look back 15 years from now and hope we will see a Gulf in better condition than it was before the industrial polluters began desecrating it."

The RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act of 2011 is a bipartisan, regional approach that will:

  • Dedicate 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties charged to BP to the restoration of the Gulf Coast

- The Clean Water Act gives the EPA authority to fine parties found to be responsible for an oil spill.            - Under current law, these penalties are not returned to the place where the injury occurred.  
- The RESTORE Act will establish the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund made up of 80 percent of all civil
penalties paid in connection with the Deepwater Horizon spill.

  •  Provide needed resources to Gulf Coast States to start recovery immediately

 - A portion of the funds will be allocated directly and equally to the five Gulf Coast states for ecological and
economic recovery.
 - States know what projects will best aid their recovery and can act quickly.
 - The bill ensures that funds are spent responsibly and for their intended purpose—restoring and protecting
the ecosystems and economies of the Gulf Coast.
- States must spend these funds on ecological and economic recovery activities along the coast, as defined in the legislation.

  • Establish a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and a Comprehensive Plan for the Gulf Coast

 - The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, established in the RESTORE Act, will develop and fund a
comprehensive plan for the ecological recovery and resiliency of the Gulf Coast.
 - The Council will be comprised of both Federal and State members, allowing agencies to work together and remove obstacles to implementation.
 - The comprehensive plan will give priority to large-scale projects that contribute the greatest to the overall
restoration of the Gulf Coast ecosystem, and projects in established state restoration plans.  
 - A portion of the Council allocation will be distributed based on proposals from the five Gulf Coast States.

  • Establish a Long Term Science and Fisheries Endowment and Gulf Coast Centers of Excellence

 - Five percent of the Fund will be allocated to a Gulf Coast research, science and technology program,
including fisheries management.
 - The program will establish Gulf Coast Centers of Excellence to advance research, science and technology in the Gulf around specific disciplines, including coastal wetlands restoration, fisheries, resilient coastal
development, and sustainable offshore energy security and safety.  
 - The endowment will include funding for needed fisheries stock assessments and ecosystem monitoring to
ensure the long term sustainability of our commercial and recreational fishing industries.
 
Stay tuned to this space as we continue to discuss the impacts and significance of the RESTORE bill.

Update: 3pmCST: Times Picayune released a comprehensive Editorial on how the RESTORE bill was crafted and how it can help the Gulf Coast recover in the aftermath of the BP oil disaster.

Renee Blanchard, Save Our Gulf Coordinator

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