Using RESTORE Dollars Wisely

Ask our leaders to use RESTORE Act dollars to effectively restore the Gulf environment.You might have heard recently that BP agreed to pay a historic criminal fine for their deepwater drilling disaster, $4.5 billion, of which $2.4 billion will be spent on Gulf restoration. This is big news, and will likely jumpstart long-needed environmental restoration. But BP’s liability for their disaster is far from settled. Now that the RESTORE Act has passed, Gulf States will eventually be benefitting from BP’s Clean Water Act violations – up to 20 billion dollars. This will be a historically unprecedented opportunity to use BP’s money to restore the Gulf, both environmentally and economically. However, we cannot allow misdirected spending on projects that will further degrade the Gulf’s struggling ecosystems.Under the RESTORE Act, much of the money will go directly to Gulf states, so it will be up to state leaders to ensure the dollars are effectively spent on restoring the Gulf. The Federal Government also has a role in overseeing the designation of dollars to specific projects. The Department of Commerce has veto power, which they can use to ensure the dollars are only spent on effectively restoring the Gulf. They represent the entire Federal Government and should utilize the expertise of federal environmental agencies such as EPA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when making decisions on Gulf recovery.This is a once in a generation opportunity to put the Gulf on a path towards sustainability, and you can help point the effort in the right direction by taking action today!If you live anywhere in the United States, send a message to President Obama and the Department of Commerce.If you live in Texas, send a message to Governor Rick Perry.If you live in Louisiana, send a message to Governor Bobby Jindal.If you live in Alabama, send a message to Governor Robert Bentley.If you live in Florida, send a message to Governor Rick Scott.(Mississippians have already weighed in through the GoCoast 2020 process.)Reparation, recovery, and resiliency of the Gulf’s ecosystems must be the focus of RESTORE Act spending. Restoring the environment will help the economy, and every $1 million spent on restoration creates between 29 and 39 jobs.The most recent science finds that coastal Louisiana currently loses a football field of wetlands every hour. Using BP’s fines, we can help fund Louisiana’s $50 billion Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast and begin rebuilding our coastal lines of defense. In Texas, Governor Rick Perry’s administration should move quickly to create a comprehensive plan for restoration so that the RESTORE Act funds are used responsibly to fund ecosystem restoration. In Florida and Alabama, funds should go to things like oyster reef restoration, infrastructure to improve water quality, and voluntary land acquisition for conservation.Please remind our leaders that the oil is still out there and the future of our ecosystem is uncertain. Ask the State and Federal Governments to prioritize funding projects that restore the environment and boost our local economy by healing our coast and communities.Aaron Viles is GRN’s Deputy Director. You can follow him on twitter @GulfAaron.

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