Gulf Future Coalition Releases “Sunshine on the Gulf: The Case for Transparency in Restoration Project Selection”

Organizations with the Gulf Future Coalition releasedSunshine on the Gulf: The Case for Transparency in Restoration Project Selection today, a report that outlines the need for formal public participation in restoration decision-making and puts forth a framework for evaluating the many proposed early restoration projects that are being decided now.Gulf Coast communities are frustrated by their exclusion in the discussion over how to spend the $1 billion early restoration funds that BP committed toward the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA). This assessment of injuries and determination of liability usually takes years and because of the size of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil release; this one could take a decade or more. Having some dollars now to spend to restore our damaged ecosystems is critical, but the public has had little opportunity to weigh in on which of the hundreds of proposals currently being submitted, will receive funding.Reverand Tyronne Edwards of Zion TravelersCooperative CenterSo the Gulf Future groups created a community-based project selection process; developing a selection criteria and then evaluating a sample of proposals based on that criteria. As members of the Gulf communities affected by the oil spill, The Gulf Future Coalition believes that a systematic project selection methodology that uses these criteria will go farther to ensure a sustainable environmental and community restoration. The Gulf Future framework prioritizes projects that contribute to the recovery and sustainability of the Gulf by (1) improving specific ecosystem impairments; (2) creating public health safeguards; (3) supporting local economies through workforce development, local hiring, and local contracting; (4) engaging public participation; and (5) involving a plan for evaluating outcomes that can be monitored by the public.Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director of Gulf Restoration NetworkThe limited review of project proposals revealed that although hundreds of projects meet the broad criteria set forth in the $1 billion agreement between BP and the NRDA Trustees and Oil Pollution Act 1990 regulations, very few projects address workforce training/local hiring, public engagement or monitoring and evaluation of projects as they are implemented. Many other proposals simply did not contain sufficient information needed to determine whether they could even meet any of the criteria. The results of this evaluation have been published in the report released today.Press conferences were held in Louisiana and Mississippi where organizations who helped draft the report discussed to the lack of transparency in the NRDA selection process and the rationale for the criteria used in by the evaluators.Here are links to some of the great press coverage the report received.Times Picayune TV 26 Herald Press Public Radio Jill Mastrototaro, Gulf Coast Protection Campaign Director Sierra ClubMany members of the Louisiana Press attend the event in New OrleansNote: There was a typographical error in the report released November 30, 2011. Louisiana was listed as one of the states who has NOT publicly released projects. Louisiana in fact has publicly released a list of priority projects. The report has been corrected.Michelle Erenberg is the Gulf Future Coordinator. The Gulf Future Coalition is a network of fifty-five community, local, regional, national and international environmental, social justice, and fishing groups. Formed in March 2011 with the creation of the Gulf Future Action Plan, this network of organizations continue to work together in a coordinated effort to bring about meaningful and effective restoration and recovery of our Gulf and our communities.

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