Emergency appropriations include coastal restoration fixes
Brian Moore, National Audubon Society
The U.S. Senate passed its version of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 emergency supplemental bill (HR 4899) in late May, which included spending provisions related to the BP oil disaster. The U.S. House and Senate are now negotiating the final bill in a conference committee. Both bodies are expected to pass the final bill and President Obama is expected to sign it into law within the next few weeks.
Two amendments in the bill, sponsored by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and co-sponsored by Senators Vitter (R-LA), Shelby (R-AL) and Cochran (R-MS), focus on coastal restoration projects, which could help defend and repair the Gulf coast from the impacts of the oil disaster.
- Amendment 4213 would expedite the distribution of previously-appropriated funding from the federal Coastal Impact Assistance Program for use on emergency mitigation of oil disaster impacts. The amendment lays out specific uses, including a variety of conservation, planning and restoration actions for wildlife and wetlands.
- Amendment 4184 would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to use dredged material from waterways in the Gulf Coast to mitigate the impacts of the oil disaster. Funds are already dedicated for navigation dredging in some coastal areas, which would provide the Corps with enough dredged material to get started.
These amendments are just part of what should be a busy legislative season.
Clean Water Act penalties for BP could “jump start” restoration projects
Mary Kelly, Environmental Defense Fund
Even as oil continues to gush into the Gulf and onto Louisiana’s shores, full funding of coastal wetland restoration in Louisiana still is not a reality. While funding all the necessary long-term restoration is not BP's sole responsibility, implementation of critical restoration projects could be “jump-started” with funding sources arising from the disaster, including potential penalties under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).
Under the CWA, BP could face civil and/or criminal penalties as high as $4,300 per barrel of oil if the disaster is found to be caused by gross negligence. At the rate oil has been gushing over the past two months, billions of dollars in penalties could be due to the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF). It is possible that a separate account in the OSLTF could be established that dedicates some of these penalties toward coastal Louisiana restoration.
The natural choices to pursue with any new restoration funding are projects Congress already has identified as a priority for coastal Louisiana’s survival. These projects may not be the same as the projects required to clean up wetlands or beaches, but they could help compensate for those losses.
Restoration projects help make coastal Louisiana more resilient to any future disasters, and restore and protect the valuable wetlands, cypress forests, land bridges and barrier islands that are such critical components of this world-class delta ecosystem.
An important consideration, of course, is when these penalties might be quantified and paid. Since the gusher still is ongoing, the government can’t yet know precisely how much it should penalize BP financially.
State awards $8.8 million dollars for resilience grants
Brian Jackson, Environmental Defense Fund
The state of Louisiana recently awarded 29 resilience grants, totaling $8.8 million dollars, to parishes, cities and non-government organizations, as a part of its Comprehensive Resiliency Program (CRP). The CRP received more than 70 applications interested in increasing community resilience and had to delay its decision deadline to accommodate the overwhelming influx of proposals.
The CRP was developed using Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds and aims to assist in code enforcement and development of planning and zoning efforts that reduce the risks of future storms. Eligible activities included land-use planning, water management plans, resiliency planning and hiring of parish staff for code enforcement.
“Reducing future damage and increasing the resilience of coastal communities should be the guiding principle for spending state and federal funds after a disaster," said Environmental Defense Fund's Community Resiliency Specialist Brian Jackson. "The response to the Resiliency Program is proof that the demand exists. Hopefully, we can dedicate future dollars to meet that demand.”
Meet Emily Schatzel
Emily Guidry Schatzel is the Coastal Louisiana Communications Manager for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). She works to increase media coverage of coastal Louisiana issues and is a member of NWF’s on-the-ground BP Oil Spill response team in Venice, La.
Since the oil spill began, Emily has coordinated boat tours with NWF staff, major national and international media, and policymakers to inshore and offshore areas impacted by the spill. In conjunction with NWF’s ongoing communications and media outreach, these tours have helped NWF conduct wildlife and habitat surveillance and keep images and stories from the front lines of the oil spill in front of the public.
Emily grew up fishing, boating, and watching wildlife with her family on Bayou Black in Houma, Louisiana. She is a graduate of Nicholls State University in Thibodaux and earned a J.D. and an M.A. in Communications, both from Loyola University New Orleans.
After Hurricane Katrina, Emily moved to Philadelphia to serve as Media Director for a national nonprofit legal advocacy organization. She brings more than eight years of strategic communications planning and media outreach to her role at NWF.
“My parents instilled an appreciation for Louisiana’s land and culture," said Emily. "I’m thrilled to be back in my home state working on restoration and helping to preserve this area for my community, friends and family.”