BP $5 billion down payment among recommendations to restore coastal Louisiana
A new report released Wednesday —on the 100th day of the BP oil catastrophe— details short- and long-term strategies for the Obama administration to make coastal Louisiana less vulnerable to future oil spills and hurricanes. The report recommends negotiating with BP for a $5 billion down payment on expected payments for natural resource damages.
The report by Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, “Common Ground: A Shared Vision for Restoring the Mississippi River Delta
,” outlines the necessary steps to restore and rebuild an ecosystem that has lost more than 2,300 square miles of wetlands—an area larger than the state of Delaware—since the 1930s.
The report notes that in recent addresses to the nation, President Obama and his advisors have committed to making the Gulf Coast better than it was before the oil disaster began. In fact, President Obama’s point man for Gulf recovery, U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, said in early July that the nation needs the Gulf region to be healthy both environmentally and economically and that it is the nation’s responsibility to make the Gulf Coast whole.
“Current sources of federal and state funding are insufficient to meet the enormous challenge,” the report says. “Furthermore, construction of projects in the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) ecosystem restoration program Congress authorized in the 2007 Water Development Resources Act (WRDA) depends on yearly appropriations to the U.S. Corps Army of Engineers. The uncertainty of such appropriations creates difficulty and delay. We must act immediately to guarantee the substantial funds needed over the long term to sustain the system and the program to restore it.”
Read the full report.
VIDEO: Beyond the Crisis of the Moment: BP, Oil, the Nation and Restoring the Louisiana Wetlands
By Matt Scrafford, Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental Defense Fund released a video today explaining how the BP oil disaster compounds the 100+ year history of man-made degradation of the Mississippi River Delta. The video visually depicts America's impact on the region’s resources through maps and video clips, starting with the expansive levee system along the Mississippi River and moving through history to our exploitation of the coast for oil and gas extraction. The video's message is clear: now is the time to restore coastal Louisiana, BP’s reparation payments can be used to fund priority coastal restoration projects, but the rest of the oil industry and the nation as a whole must step up as well.
The Gulf bird toll: How low can you go?
Stacy Small, Environmental Defense Fund
Like crude oil, scientific comparisons can be slippery. When Americans first hear that "only" 2,900 dead birds have been collected and tallied in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil disaster, they can be forgiven for initially thinking that the Exxon Valdez spill was worse for wildlife. By the time the full story unfolds, this media myth may prove to be untrue.
For several reasons, the official daily casualty report is an incomplete account of wildlife damages in the Gulf of Mexico, especially for birds, and shouldn't be the only metric used to describe the wildlife impact.
- The daily casualty report represents only the number of collected and captured animals, which may only be a fraction of the birds left to die in the wild.
- Oil and chemical-exposed birds may die and be scavenged or sink in Gulf waters, uncounted, and a dynamic environment of winds and currents decreases the likelihood that carcasses will wash ashore.
- Open waters and coastal wetlands can be particularly challenging environments to access and survey, compared to rocky shorelines.
- Finally, assessing wildlife damages goes beyond counting individual animals; ecosystem impacts such as habitat damage and persistent toxins may only reveal themselves through long-term studies of population and food web dynamics.
It is very encouraging that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state and federal wildlife agencies, and non-governmental organizations are working pro-actively with farmers in the region to create emergency habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl as fall migration season approaches. To evaluate the success of these programs, trained wildlife biologists should be employed to observe and report on how these and other alternate habitats are being used, compared to the oiled coastal areas.
To openly assess the full damage to fish and wildlife, we need independent, long-term, and widespread surveys that systematically monitor and publicly report:
- Habitat use in damaged, restored, and alternate emergency habitats;
- Short- and long-term effects of the disaster on animal populations and the entire food web; and
- The fate and transport of oil and chemical dispersants from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
This view was reinforced by Dr. Robert Spies of Applied Marine Sciences, Dr. Erik Rifkin of the National Aquarium, and Stanley Senner of the Ocean Conservancy in their testimony on July 28 before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife. All three experts stressed the need for ecosystem studies in the Gulf that are long-term, independent, and peer-reviewed, and they emphasized the importance of scientific rigor and transparency in the Gulf Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA). Only when we see the methods and results of the NRDA will the public and policymakers know the full scope of wildlife damages and how they are being calculated.
Photo Credit: Yuki Kokubo, Environmental Defense Fund