RESTORE Acts in Both Houses – Will Congress Finally Direct BP Fines to Gulf?

76 weeks after the Deepwater Horizon exploded then sank into the Gulf of Mexico, triggering the worst accidental marine oil spill in U.S. history both the House and the Senate have bills introduced which would direct the historic Clean Water Act fines from BP’s deepwater drilling disaster to tackle the ongoing challenges facing the Gulf.In principle the bills are simple, and seek to redirect this windfall fine ($5 – $21 billion) from the Oil Spill Response Trust Fund and the general treasury to Gulf restoration efforts instead. It’s hard to argue that the Gulf doesn’t deserve the funds, as it has been the nation’s energy sacrifice zone for decades pre-BP, and continues to face a coastal wetlands crisis, an enormous seasonal Dead Zone offshore, and increasingly vulnerable coastal communities. Precious little was being done to address any of these issues well before April 20, 2010.Of course, the devil is in the details. Kral oyunlar kral oyun Oyunlar oyun – En kral oyunlar1 giydirme oyunları giysi oyunlarI oyunlar1 kral oyun kral oyun kral oyun araba oyunları – giydirme oyunları kral oyun mario oyunları savaş oyunları çocuk oyunlarıThe Senate bill, a result of compromises across the region and across parties, and introduced by 9 of the 10 Gulf Senators with the backing of Environment and Public Works Committee Chair (and committed environmentalist) Barbara Boxer, was a strong opening gambit. Unfortunately, the House bill, introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise and 24 congressional colleagues, is a bit weaker, and includes some troubling elements limiting the ability of the fine monies to be spent on NOAA-directed research, or the use of the funds to acquire federally managed habitat around the Gulf. The bills each direct 80% of the eventual fine monies to be divvied up according to the following formula: 35% to the 5 Gulf states (7% for each), 30% to a joint state/federal Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council approved restoration plan, 30% to state-directed restoration plans allocated by a formula which includes proximity to the BP drilling disaster and other factors, and 5% to the creation of a research and technology program to aid Gulf restoration efforts.On September 21 the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee approved the RESTORE Act on a voice vote, with just three members opposing passage. The next step is tor bring the act to the full floor, and pass it! The House introduced their version on Oct 5, and as yet, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has not scheduled a hearing. Our window of opportunity to strengthen and pass this historic effort to jumpstart Gulf ecosystem and economic restoration is closing quickly. As the Presidential race heats up, the already questionable ability of Congress to function effectively becomes more in jeopardy. It’s critical that advocates for the Gulf, both from the Gulf and across the country, come together with a unified voice to call for action. Updates on the RESTORE Act and grassroots efforts to strengthen and pass it are available via the Gulf Future Coalition, GRN, and many partner initiatives.Aaron Viles is GRN’s Deputy Director. For shorter pontificating, follow him on twitter.

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