Dec. 29, 2011
Contact: Ken or Kate Gooderham, ASBPA executive directors -- (239) 489-2616
Harry Simmons, ASBPA president -- (910) 200-7867
Use coastal fines to spur coastal recovery
When fines are collected in response to an environmental disaster impacting a specific part of the coast, should those fines be dedicated to help restore that area and repair the damage done by the original catastrophe? Or should that money be kept in Washington for Congress to decide what the best use of those fines really is?
That's ultimately the question posed by the RESTORE Act, a plan on how Clean Water Act fines collected from BP in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: Change the current laws to dedicate a significant portion of the fines (estimated between $5 billion and $21 billion) to an array of restoration projects along the Gulf coastline impacted by the spill, or let the law stand and leave the ultimate decision on what to do with those funds to Washington... which means that money could be used for whatever Congress or the administration decides is currently the most critical funding need.
The proposed change, which is moving forward in both the House and Senate, would dedicate 80% of the BP fines to the following purposes:
- 60% will go to a newly created Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, to be split between a comprehensive restoration plan developed by the council and plans developed by the five Gulf states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas) to target the specific restoration needs of each.
- 35% will go to those five states for environmental and economic restoration in the impacted areas.
- 5% will focus on monitoring the Gulf ecosystem and fisheries.
The act, which has the support of major environmental interests, also has the backing of two major studies that underscore the need for this change:
- One, done by Duke University and sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund, points out the economic benefit that could accrue from a dedicated investment in coastal restoration, nurturing the viability and skills of the many companies involved in restoration activities.
- The other, from the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, documents the need to and benefits of restoring coastal wetlands along the Gulf coast, reducing the pollution-causing nutrients entering the Gulf from the vast Mississippi watershed and other sources, and enhancing the resiliency of coastal communities facing myriad challenges.
While this law and these reports focus on the Gulf of Mexico and the BP spill, the proposal carries implications for coastal areas around the country. If approved, the RESTORE Act would encourage fairness in the use of post-disaster fines where any damage was actually done (hopefully to restore the impacted coast to its former vitality). That's good news if the next problem crops up off your shoreline.
It's also welcome to see a renewed focus on the Gulf of Mexico -- a crucial water body that's seen a lot of problems from a variety of sources without a lot of solutions. This funding could jump-start answers that will help the Gulf recover from its myriad maladies, which is good news for everyone who lives along or relies upon its coastline.
Finally, the RESTORE Act (and the studies supporting it) also acknowledge the economic and environmental benefit of the coasts and coastal restoration -- a welcome reminder how much a healthy coastline contributes to a healthy economy, and a welcome tie between two crucial aspects of the coast.
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Online links to the two studies cited in this release:
ABOUT ASBPA: Founded in 1926, the ASBPA promotes the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to www.asbpa.org, facebook or www.twitter.com/asbpa.