By Gwen Fishel
Before taking the July 4th recess, Congress passed legislation to extend highway funding, flood insurance programs and a one-year freeze on student loan interest rates. Included in the nearly 600-page legislation is the RESTORE Act (the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act).
The RESTORE Act gives Gulf states affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill access to about 80 percent of the fines collected from BP. The funds can be used to restore shorelines and deep water habitats, thereby helping to boost the economies of those states.
Funding in the bill is distributed three different ways:
60 percent will go toward the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which will then give half of those funds to states, with the other half going toward restoration efforts fronted by the Council. Each impacted state will have its governor sit on this Council.
35 percent will go toward environmental and economic restoration efforts.
The remaining five percent will be allocated for research and water monitoring programs.
“This is a banner day for the Gulf Coast as the RESTORE Act is soon to become law and the coastal communities affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill are poised to receive long-awaited economic and environmental restoration funds,” said Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), a co-sponsor of the legislation.
“There is little question that the impact of the April 2010 oil spill will be felt along our shores and in our coastal communities for years to come,” Bonner added. “However, the RESTORE Act offers the potential for renewed economic prosperity and environmental restoration to offset the regional losses we have suffered.”
In Louisiana, one of the states most affected by the spill, state legislators are planning to direct dollars from the BP fines toward wildlife restoration, including the creation of marshes, oyster reefs, levees and other mechanisms that could revitalize the environment and prevent future flooding.
“These funds will help jump start, in a significant way, coastal restoration in Louisiana,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). “We have the science, the plan and the will, and all we needed was the money. Let’s get started.”