News and Updates
How the Natural Resources Damage Assessment money could actually cause more damage
So this is a significant amount of money, more than we’ve seen dedicated in the three years since this disaster began. But not all the projects actually help restore the Gulf, so let’s get into this a little bit. Let’s start by highlighting some of the good projects and we should begin with Louisiana, which is proposing barrier island restoration and fish research hatcheries. Louisiana is getting the lion’s share of this round of funding – about $340 million. We are pleased to see the barrier island restoration, and a bit more skeptical about the fish hatcheries – Louisiana has a long, proud history of opposing hatcheries, and relying instead on our incredibly productive wetlands as natural hatcheries.
Florida is also investing more in living shoreline, seagrass restoration and fisheries enhancement, than boat ramps, although to be sure, there are boat ramps. But only 10% of their funding is going to those kinds of projects.
The other states are proposing an unsettling combination of tourism ‘enhancement’ construction projects with a few pennies being thrown at ecosystem restoration. Alabama, for example, is spending 80% of their funds on hotel and conference center in a state park. This project violates the public trust because it will restrict access to the resources in this area to those who can afford to stay at this hotel and attend conferences here. This construction will also destroy habitat, further endangering habitat for protected species like the beach mouse and threatened and endangered sea turtles. This obscene amount of money being pumped into an economic development project dwarfs the $8 million Alabama will spend on true restoration of oyster reefs.
But Alabama is not the only problem; Mississippi also intends to sink over a quarter of their cash into new construction rather than on environmental enhancement. Although, we should give credit for the $50 million investment in 46 acres of marsh creation (read more about Mississippi’s projects here). Texas is also spending over half of its money on construction of boardwalks and park amenities, while investing only around $7 million in reef restoration.
The NRDA Trustees have not opened the public comment period just yet, but we should start preparing now to tell how important it is for us to focus NRDA funding more completely on environmental restoration of our damaged resources. I mean, if they are ready to spend NRDA funds, which are more restrictive, on a hotel and conference center, just imagine what they will spend RESTORE Act funds on – Alabama, I see a six lane highway in your future.
To see how the Gulf Future coalition think restoration dollars should be spent, make sure to check out our “Guidance for Sustainable Restoration.” While we understand that not every dollar will be spent on wetlands and other habitat restoration, it’s outrageous that dollars intend to restore the impact of the BP disaster will actually be harming the Gulf environment.
May 10, 2013
Michelle Erenberg is the coordinator of Gulf Future, a coalition of conservation and community groups working together to recover from the BP oil disaster.
Gulf Future Groups Release “Guidance for Sustainable Restoration”
Today, Gulf Future held press events in New Orleans, LA and Biloxi, MS to release Gulf Future Guidance for Sustainable Restoration. This document was drafted by fifty-nine organizations from across the Gulf at the 2013 Gulf Gathering in March. Through two days of discussion we outlined our vision and priorities for how the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, created by the RESTORE Act, should focus while selecting projects to fund with the BP Deepwater Horizon fines and penalties. By prioritizing ecosystem restoration and the economic benefits it will have for local communities, and by creating safe, healthy and just communities, the Council can build a better, more sustainable Gulf Coast.
Read more: Gulf Future Groups Release “Guidance for Sustainable Restoration”
Report: Gulf Wildlife Three Years Into the Oil Disaster
Posted from National Wildlife Federation
April 2, 2013 – As the three-year mark of the Gulf oil disaster approaches, a new National Wildlife Federation report gives a snapshot view of six important species in the Gulf of Mexico and makes recommendations as to how we can restore their habitats and the Gulf as a whole.
“Three years after the initial explosion, the impacts of the disaster continue to unfold,” said Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation and lead report author. “Dolphins are still dying in high numbers in the areas affected by oil. These ongoing deaths—particularly in an apex predator like the dolphin—are a strong indication that there is something amiss with the Gulf ecosystem.”
Restoring a Degraded Gulf of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands Three Years into the Gulf Oil Disaster looks at how different species of wildlife across the northern Gulf are faring in the wake of the oil disaster:Read more: Report: Gulf Wildlife Three Years Into the Oil Disaster
BP Trial Begins - Here's what you should know and what you can do
As the trial begins, BP contends that the company should not be taking the majority of the responsibility for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. They argue that Transocean (whom a judge recently ordered to pay $1 billion in fines) and Halliburton were equally at fault in the disaster. BP also contends that the amount of oil spilled (estimated by the federal government to be more than 4 million barrels) is an overestimation of at least 20 percent. BP claims to have contained and collected 810,000 barrels of oil, the penalty should be based on no more than 3.1 million barrels, it said.
While BP claims that blame should be shared, Transocean and Halliburton both claim that they were following BPs lead, and insist that BP holds most of the responsibility.
While BP believes that it should be held to a more lenient standard, the Department of Justice has accumulated emails, documents, and testimonials in order to pursue charges of gross negligence.
There is a proposed settlement, which BP has yet to accept, offers BP the opportunity to pay $16 billion: $6 billion in Clean Water Act fines, $9 billion to resolve environmental penalties (NRDA - which would be tax deductible for the company), and $1 billion to cover unanticipated environmental damages. This is NOT ENOUGH. BP should pay every cent that it owes which includes upwards of $20 billion for CWA violations alone.Read more: BP Trial Begins - Here's what you should know and what you can do
Share your ideas on restoring the Gulf
So much has happened in the last twelve months that is finally moving us closer to making ecosystem restoration a reality. Last year, the RESTORE Act passed, ensuring 80% of the Clean Water Act fines from the BP Drilling Disaster will come to the Gulf states for ecosystem restoration and economic recovery. Then in January, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council released The Path Forward to Restoring the Gulf Coast, which is the early stage of plan development and the Council will release a draft plan for public comment this Spring.
This week, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council is holding public meetings in across the Gulf to hear ideas about restoration. I hope you can attend one of these meetings to make your voice heard!
The meeting times are locations are:
Wednesday, February 20
Louisiana – 5:00 PM CST
University of New Orleans, Homer Hitt Alumni Center Ballroom, 2000 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans, LA
Thursday, February 21
Louisiana – 5:00 PM CST
Lack Charles Civic Center, Jean Lafitte Room, 900 Lakeshore Drive, Lake Charles, LA
Thursday, February 28
Florida – 6:00 PM EST
Student Union East Conference Center, Gulf Coast State College, 5230 W. U.S. 98, Panama City Beach, FL
You can get ideas on what to say to support of the Gulf's natural resources by downloading our talking points.
As billions of dollars dedicated for restoration begin to flow to the Gulf, it is critical that we closely monitor the process for selecting and funding projects. We want to be sure that the maximum amount of funding is spent on restoring our unique ecosystem and protecting our marine and coastal environment. The Council needs to understand that ecosystem restoration is economic recovery, and the only path forward for a resilient Gulf.
It is vitally important that everyone’s voice is heard, so please consider standing up to share some of your thoughts or the GRN messages that you can download here.
To learn more about the Council and get details about upcoming meetings, visit www.restorethegulf.gov
What we heard from the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council Meeting
This week the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council met for the first time in Mobile, AL. This Council, established by the RESTORE Act, will oversee spending of the 80% of the Clean Water Act fines BP will pay for the 2010 oil disaster. Although the exact amount of those fines or when they might be coming is still unclear, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council is getting a head start on establishing priorities and getting public input.
Aaron Viles and I were at this meeting to represent Gulf Restoration Network and our members in urging the new Council to prioritize effective, scientifically-backed ecosystem restoration projects, and to remind the Council that restoring the environment restores our economy.
There was a lot of enthusiasm in the room and an impressive turn out of state and federal officials, as well as members of the public. Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank opened the meeting by highlighting the importance of the Gulf Coast and drawing attention to the legacy challenges that have existed in the region long before BP’s oil. The goal of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, she said, should be the “long term health, prosperity, and environment of Gulf Coast communities.” Thankfully, even before GRN could speak on the subject, Blank also pointed out that economic development and coastal restoration are not “either-or”, but rather they are linked and must work together.Read more: What we heard from the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council Meeting
Transocean agrees to plead guilty, pay $1.4 billion in fines over 2010 Gulf spill
By NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on January 03, 2013 at 4:33 PM, updated January 03, 2013 at 8:24 PM
Mark Schleifstein and Richard Thompson
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Transocean Ltd., the owner of the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig that was leased to BP when its Macondo well erupted off the Louisiana coast in 2010, has agreed to pay $1.4 billion in civil and criminal fines and penalties for its role in the massive oil spill, one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history, the company and the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.
Under the deal, Transocean, the Houston-based offshore driller, has agreed to plead guilty and pay $1 billion to resolve federal Clean Water Act civil penalty claims -- 80 percent of which will be directed to projects aimed at alleviating effects of the spill under the federal RESTORE Act -- and another $400 million in criminal fines and penalties for federal offshore drilling safety violations in the events leading to the Gulf spill.
The settlement, which will be subject to a 21-day public comment period and must still be approved by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, involves only issues that would have arisen during the first phase of a trial in New Orleans over the spill that is to begin on Feb. 25.Read more: Transocean agrees to plead guilty, pay $1.4 billion in fines over 2010 Gulf spill
Groups Recommend Project for the RESTORE Council
BP Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster
BP Exploration and Production Inc. (BP) has agreed to plead guilty to felony manslaughter, environmental crimes and obstruction of Congress and pay a record $4 billion in criminal fines and recoveries for its conduct leading to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 people and caused the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
The 14-count information charges BP with 11 counts of felony manslaughter, one count of felony obstruction of Congress, and misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts. The agreement is still awaiting approval by the court.
Read more: BP Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster
What does the Plea Agreement cover?
Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Trustees Call for Public Input on Next Round of Gulf Restoration
Gulf Coast (Nov. 8, 2012)--The Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees (Trustees) have released the Deepwater Horizon Phase II Draft Early Restoration Plan & Environmental Review (DERP/ER) for public review and comment. The plan includes two proposed projects totaling about $9 million that focus on restoring nesting habitat for birds and sea turtles. Response efforts resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused injuries to this natural habitat.
"This draft plan includes two Early Restoration projects which represent a near-term opportunity to improve the nesting habitats of birds and turtles, two species that are integral to the Gulf Coast wildlife community,” said Cynthia Dohner, Natural Resource Trustee for the Department of the Interior. “Our desire is to provide these benefits during the next nesting season, but we'd first like to hear from the public. We encourage the public to attend the November 13 meeting in Pensacola and to give us their comments."Read more: Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Trustees Call for Public Input on Next Round of Gulf Restoration
Consortium of Florida’s Gulf coast counties convenes first meeting in Tallahassee
Florida’s Gulf Consortium met for the first time on Monday, October 22, 2012 in Tallahassee. The Gulf Consortium is a unit of local government formed by interlocal agreement among the 23 counties along Florida’s Gulf coast to develop the plan for the Oil Spill Restoration Impact Allocation from BP fines that will come to those counties under the RESTORE Act. The Consortium will participate in the Federal rule development process, and advocate with executive agencies, the FL legislature and the Federal Government.
Bryan Desloge, President of Florida Association of Counties (FAC) greeted the members of the newly-formed Consortium, calling it “the biggest thing, potentially, in our lifetimes – a chance for counties to do something that is a gamechanger for the Gulf coast." As of October 19, twenty-one of the twenty-three counties are members of the Consortium. Those 21 counties were in attendance, and each county has one representative on the Board of Directors, each with one vote.Read more: Consortium of Florida’s Gulf coast counties convenes first meeting in Tallahassee
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