We Need Comprehensive Legislation

This blog was written by Casi Callaway of Mobile Baykeeper. The seven Save Our Gulf Waterkeepers mailed letters to the entire Gulf Coast Congressional Delegation today. Asking for comprehensive legislation to dedicate Clean Water Act penalties resulting from the BP oil disaster to return to the Gulf Coast.

The BP/Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster permanently changed our lives. For most of Coastal Alabama, it will be impossible for many of us to ever “get our lives back” as Tony Hayward so callously described it nor can BP ever make us “whole” entirely.

The light we should see at the end of that dark tunnel, however, is that we learned a few things:  We learned should never take our beach for granted; we should never assume we will have what our parents and grandparents had; if we want multitudes of fish in the sea, we must take care of them; and we learned cost is not the only worry related to putting gas in our tanks.  Mobile Baykeeper also believes we learned that we can do better for our environment, our economy and our communities.

One place you can put your new knowledge to work to make a difference is by writing letters to your federal legislators.  You may now know the Clean Water Act fines that will be levied on BP are not required to come back to the Gulf Coast states. In fact, by law, the funds go into the US Treasury unless we get a law passed to change that.

Over the last three weeks, two Senate bills and three House Resolutions have been introduced.  We now need our US Senators and Representatives who live and work in and for the Gulf Coast to work together to insist Clean Water Act money comes back to the coastal states for restoration.  In particular, we believe any legislation written should contain the following five points:

•    Dedicate Clean Water Act fines resulting from the BP Oil Disaster to Gulf Coast ecosystem recovery;
•    Distribute funds equitably to Gulf Coast states based on environmental and economic impact and have strict oversight by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force;
•    Create a Regional Citizen’s Advisory Council to guide restoration projects along the Gulf Coast;
•    Utilize a matrix or prioritization tool to ensure funds are spent on the best projects that will have long-term sustainability and resilience as the basis rise to the top;
•    Ensure local communities can compete for jobs and contract opportunities created under the legislation by giving preferences to local workers and small businesses on contracts and provide funding for training and workforce development, especially for vulnerable coastal communities and workers impacted by the oil disaster.

We must restore our Gulf Coast to a better position than it was before this disaster hit our shores.  The Gulf Coast faces years of recovery ahead, we will likely not know for many years the true cost to our communities, our economy, and our environment.  The Clean Water Act penalties resulting from the BP Oil Disaster returned to the Gulf coast will help our communities on this path to full recovery.  We should demand our federal legislators work together to ensure that Clean Water Act penalties are dedicated to the Gulf Coast as its restoration is critical to our regional and national environment and to our country’s economic sustainability.

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