Groups support bipartisan call for President to fulfill commitment to restore gulf coast
Three environmental groups joined a bipartisan call for action earlier this month for President Obama to fulfill the commitment that he made in his very first oval office speech on June 15 to restore the Gulf Coast to make it better than it was before the BP oil disaster
. At a news conference in New Orleans on Sept. 13, Louisiana U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise urged the President to dedicate BP oils spill penalties to the long-term restoration of the Gulf Coast and its economy.
Local environmental groups, Gulf Restoration Network and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, joined Senator Landrieu and Congressman Scalise at the news conference and urged support of the legislation to accelerate coastal restoration.
The Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation coauthored a July 28 report, Common Ground: A Shared Vision for Restoring the Mississippi River Delta, calling for the Obama administration to negotiate with BP for an initial $5 billion commitment to pay for expected damages to natural resources.
Two days after the report was released, the U.S. House of Representatives took an important first step toward fulfilling the President's pledge. It passed a bill to respond to the oil spill disaster, the CLEAR Act (H.R. 3534) -- which included a provision authored by Congressman Charlie Melancon (D-La.) -- that would direct up to $1.2 billion in new funding to restore the damaged Gulf Coast. Instead of adding to the deficit, the new work would be funded from a portion of the penalties that BP will pay for the damage it has caused to the natural resources of the Gulf.
On August 6, Sen. Landrieu introduced revised legislation, “The Restoring Ecosystem Sustainability and Protection on the Delta (RESPOND) Act” (S. 3763), that would require that at least 80 percent of the civil and criminal penalties charged to BP under the Clean Water Act be returned to the Gulf Coast for long-term economic and environmental recovery. Those penalties will range between $1,100 and $4,300 per barrel spilled, totaling between $5 billion and $21 billion.
The principle of dedicating the penalties to restoration has been endorsed by the entire, bi-partisan, Louisiana congressional delegation, the governor, and members of the federal administration.
Photo credit: Yuki Kokubo
Senior Corps leaders receive Myrtle Grove diversion briefing
Environmental Defense Fund
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) Mississippi Valley Division commander Major General Michael J. Walsh and other senior leaders, including the Corps New Orleans District’s Colonel Fleming
, were briefed on Aug. 31 about the Myrtle Grove Delta Building Diversion modeling effort.
The Myrtle Grove diversion project is an authorized Louisiana Coastal Area project, designed to mimic natural deltaic land building processes by utilizing the sediments of the Mississippi River to build land in the Barataria Basin, an area experiencing very high land loss rates.
The modeling effort is using state of the art data collection and analysis, modeling, and design techniques to assess impacts and maximize the diversion’s capacity to capture sediment from the Mississippi River with short-pulsed flows. Capturing sediment, and eventually restoring wetlands in the Barataria Basin could improve storm buffering to communities around New Orleans.
Project participants include Louisiana’s Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, and National Wildlife Federation, and the Corps. The briefing provided a broad overview and information transfer of the comprehensive modeling effort undertaken to expedite the project.
Learn more about the Myrtle Grove Delta Building Diversion project.
National conservation group leaders assess regional recovery needs
Leaders of several large conservation organizations met in Louisiana earlier this month to see the impacts of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and learn what they could do to help the region recover. Participating groups included the National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Isaac Walton League, Union of Concerned Scientists among others. Participants heard from a panel of local experts addressing oil disaster impacts and restoration opportunities. Many of the chief executive officers from these groups also took a tour of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Bayou Dupont and Barataria Bay.
“This visit to coastal Louisiana was a special opportunity to unite national, state and local environmental groups on the issue of coastal restoration,” said National Wildlife President Larry Schweiger. “Through engaging tours of the area and informative panel discussions, key leaders from across the country were able to learn more about the reality of coastal restoration and the potential solutions that can help this important region recover.”
Photo Credit: Yuki Kokubo
Meet Karla Raettig
Karla Raettig is the National Campaign Director for Louisiana Coastal Restoration at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Karla joined NWF in 2007 as the Legislative Representative for Wildlife Conservation and was responsible for advocating on behalf of NWF in front of Congress and federal and state agencies.
Before joining NWF, Karla was Senior Counsel at the Environmental Integrity Project where she focused on litigation and policy issues under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Prior to moving to Washington, D.C. in 2005, Karla worked as a Staff Attorney and Deputy Director at the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic in New Orleans, La, an associate attorney with the Seattle office of Earthjustice, and a judicial law clerk for Magistrate Judge Janice M. Stewart in the District of Oregon.
Karla grew up in Missoula, Montana where her parents instilled in her a commitment to conservation. “During my time working for the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, I had a crash course in the crisis of coastal land loss,” Karla said. “I saw all that was at risk: the remarkable people and cultures of south Louisiana as well as a unique and critically important area for wildlife. Protecting and restoring this area became my passion and I feel incredibly lucky to do this work every day.”
Karla earned her LL.M in environmental and natural resources law, with distinction, in 2004 from Tulane University Law School; her J.D., magna cum laude, in 1997 from Lewis and Clark Law School; and her B.A. in 1993 from The Evergreen State College.