Obama, Congress must agree on how much BP fine money is dedicated to restoration fund –
National Wildlife Federation issued a statement with partner organizations today praising a new government report detailing a long-term environmental restoration plan for the Gulf Coast. The groups called on the President and Congress to implement the report’s recommendations by using the fines BP will have to pay for the blowout of the company’s Macondo well.
The report urges Congress to create a Gulf Coast Recovery Fund-managed by a council including federal, state, local and tribal representatives-and funded with a “significant amount” of BP fine money. The fund would support large-scale ecosystem recovery of a region that is so important to hunters and anglers from across the country. The report was presented today in New Orleans by Navy Secretary and former Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus, who was appointed by President Obama to lead the team developing the plan.
“Secretary Mabus is doing his part to fulfill President Obama’s promise to create a long-term plan to restore the Gulf Coast and make it better than it was before the BP oil disaster,” said a joint statement by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, and National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation. “Now it’s up to President Obama and Congress to act this year to ensure that the fines paid by BP under existing law are directed to restoring the Gulf, and that the new penalties included in House legislation are made law.”
As a first step in the restoration plan, the President soon plans to sign an executive order creating a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, which will be led by Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson, a New Orleans native. The joint statement also applauded this commitment, noting that moving forward quickly with a robust task force is necessary to move forward already-authorized projects, ensure that congressional appropriations are put in place, and that the full scope of needed restoration projects is designed and implemented.
“Aggressive, bold action is needed to restore the crucial wildlife habitats found all along the coast-especially in coastal Louisiana’s wetlands,” Land Tawney, NWF’s Senior Manager for Sportsmen Leadership, said. “We are rapidly losing coastal marshes that provide wintering grounds for millions of waterfowl each year and support an abundance of commercial and recreational fishing. Today’s report recommends much-needed cooperation among federal agencies and state governments to ensure that we can restore and recover this region, which is encouraging news to sportsmen all over the country.”
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed an amendment to oil response legislation (H.R. 3534) authored by Congressman Charlie Melancon (D-La.) that would create a new civil penalty for any oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico-including the BP oil disaster-but the Senate has yet to act on this provision or on dedicating penalties from existing Clean Water Act provisions.
U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and David Vitter (R-La.) and U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) have introduced legislation that would require that at least 80 percent of the civil and criminal penalties charged to BP under the Clean Water Act for oil spill damages be returned to the Gulf Coast for long-term economic and environmental recovery. Penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act alone will range between $1,100 and $4,300 for each of the 4.9 million barrels spilled, totaling between $5 billion and $21 billion. The exact amount will depend upon if BP is found grossly negligent for the Gulf oil disaster.