New Gulf restoration law incorporates Better South concepts

Jul 16, 2012

JULY 16, 2012 — Two concepts pushed by the Center for a Better South in a 2010 study to spur restoration of the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil disaster are now part of a federal omnibus transportation bill signed earlier this month into law by President Obama.

The Restore the Gulf Coast Act, part of the big federal transportation bill approved by Congress June 29 and signed into law on July 6, calls for 80 percent of billions of dollars of fines for BP to flow to the Gulf states impacted by the disaster.  Had the measure not become law, any fines would have gone into the federal government’s general treasury.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, said the Restore Act was the most significant action ever to restore his state’s coast, which bore the brunt of environmental damage from the disaster that leaked an estimated 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“This major milestone is vital as we work to ensure the full recovery of the Gulf Coast states from the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” Scalise said earlier this month in news reports.

The Restore Act calls for 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines, which could approach $20 billion for BP, to go to a new Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund for the five Gulf Coast states.  The money, which won’t be available until a settlement or resolution of litigation, is steered in three areas:

  • 35 percent in equal shares to the five states.
  • 60 percent to the new Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, a new board comprised of eight federal and five state officials with a chair from the group appointed by the President.  The council would develop a comprehensive plan and programs to restore and protect coastal ecosystems in the five states, including projects offered under state comprehensive plans.  Half of the money in this part of the fund would implement the council’s plan; the other half would go to states based on oil spill impacts.
  • 5 percent to Gulf Coast research, science and technology.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune noted July 12 that the Restore Act would help the health of the whole Gulf Coast:  “The Restore Act is a major step toward rescuing our coast.”

In September 2010 following a request by U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to “think big” about ways to help the Gulf to recover, the Center for a Better South released “Ideas for a Better Gulf,” a report that showcased a dozen ideas to spur restoration and recovery.

The first two ideas showcased by the Center focused on creation of a long-term development and recovery trust fund and creation of a presidential commission to oversee the trust.  To see the original concepts, see the full report.

In 2011, Mabus, who coordinated the Obama Administration’s Gulf recovery plan, recommended Center President Andy Brack to receive a White House “Champion of Change” award for his work on the Center’s plan.  The White House presented the award to Brack in July 2011.

The Center for a Better South is a pragmatic, nonpartisan think tank dedicated to developing progressive ideas, policies and information for thinking leaders who want to make a difference in the American South.

Read more about the Restore Act:

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