- In late July, a bipartisan delegation of Gulf Coast Senators introduced the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act, or the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act (S. 1400).
- The bill would direct 80% of the anticipated Clean Water Act (CWA) fines levied against BP to the five Gulf Coast states.
- This reflects Navy Secretary Mabus’ and the National Oil Spill Commission’s recommendations as well as the repeated requests of Gulf residents and regional and national non-profits and community leaders, including the Sierra Club.
- On September 21st the bill was marked up and passed out of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee.
Our Position: Strengthen the RESTORE Bill
- Throughout the recovery process, the Sierra Club has stressed that in order for meaningful restoration to occur, the fundamental principles of transparency, accountability, and independent science are needed at all levels.
- While the RESTORE Bill is a step in the right direction (i.e. 80% CWA fines to the Gulf), it lacks adequate safeguards to support these principles.
- Therefore, the Sierra Club cannot support the RESTORE Bill in its current form.
- In order to secure our support, we will work to strengthen the bill through the following improvements:
- Establish a Science Advisory Committee to provide independent input on restoration project selection, implementation, and monitoring processes.
- Require an annual legislative audit by the Government Accounting Office or an independent auditor located outside the Gulf Coast.
- Require the Gulf states and the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council to establish formal public comment periods and to hold public hearings for all plans, projects, and programs developed with this funding.
- Create a permanent Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council (RCAC) comprised of community leaders and stakeholders from the Gulf Coast to improve communications and provide long-term oversight of future oil industry actions.
- Require all plans and projects developed with these funds be consistent with the efforts of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, and be approved by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.
- Include a special clause to ensure funds prioritize ecosystem restoration over economic development, such as:
- “Amounts provided under this bill may not be used for activities that destroy or degrade the health, diversity, or viability of coastal or marine ecosystems” or “No more than 10% of the funds received by a state in any fiscal year may be spent on projects that are primarily intended for economic development rather than restoration of coastal or marine ecosystems.”
- Remove language that allows states to sue the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council in federal court if the Council fails to act within 60 days or rejects a state’s project.
Questions/More information: Jill Mastrototaro at email@example.com /504.861.4835