Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council released its first list of projects totaling $183 million to restore the Gulf in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. This is the first funding allocated under the RESTORE Act, which directs 80 percent of Clean Water Act civil penalties related to the BP oil disaster to the Gulf Coast for environmental and economic restoration.
We are digging into the details of the project list, but our initial reaction is largely positive– not only because the projects selected will likely achieve important environmental benefits, but because the Council has also taken a few lines straight out of Ocean Conservancy’s and other partners’ playbooks.
Here are a few quotes from the draft project list we find especially compelling (and familiar):
“The Council also plans to leverage other restoration resources and to combine projects in a way that produces environmental benefits greater than the sum of the individual activities. Effective leveraging of existing resources is critical for maximizing the ‘bang’ for each coastal restoration ‘buck.’”
“Many stakeholders cautioned the Council against distributing the available funds in a way that supports disconnected (although beneficial) restoration projects. In other words, the Council was asked not to engage in ‘random acts of restoration.’”
“The Council proposes to invest in a broader monitoring and coordination effort that would build on existing programs and establish protocols and standards to enable data to be aggregated. This investment would help the Council evaluate progress towards comprehensive ecosystem restoration and leverage ongoing efforts.”
“…Monitoring, community investments, and other Gulf-wide activities designed to lay a foundation for comprehensive restoration and effective use of future funding opportunities.”
This draft project list is really good news, and it’s a product of the hard work that Ocean Conservancy, along with our partners and supporters like you, have put into this effort over the last five years. Here is a short timeline that shows how today’s announcement came to be.
- In the weeks and months following the oil disaster, countless groups like the Women of the Storm began a concerted effort to ask our House and Senate members to draft a bill that would send BP fine money to the Gulf of Mexico for restoration.
- On July 21, 2011, Senators Mary Landrieu (LA) and Richard Shelby (AL) introduced the RESTORE Act, a bill that would send 80 percent of any Clean Water Act civil penalties to the Gulf for economic and environmental restoration. Environmental organizations, sportsmens groups and the business community banded together to support RESTORE, and with these new alliances in place, we worked tirelessly at the local, state and national levels to build the bipartisan support needed to pass the bill.
- On June 29th, 2012, the RESTORE Act passed both the House and Senate as an amendment to the transportation bill by votes of 373-52 and 74-19, respectively. And though the Act wasn’t a perfect vehicle, we celebrated in the Gulf for its potential to fund critical restoration initiatives in the region.
- In January 2013, Transocean Deepwater Inc. announced it had reached a settlement with the U.S. Dept. of Justice to settle a number of claims, agreeing to pay $1 billion in civil penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act. This agreement sent $800 million to the Gulf Restoration Trust Fund, effectively putting the RESTORE Act into action for the first time.
- Today, August 13, 2015, the Council announced its first set of proposed restoration projects, funded by the Transocean settlement.
Progress takes time. Solutions are hard-won and we have to overcome politics, complexity and moments of crippling doubt to get there, but it is so worth it. Look how far we can go when we work together to build a better world.