The groups also encouraged the federal government and the State of Louisiana to ensure the fines are spent on the coastal projects laid out in the state’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan.
“We applaud the leaders from both houses whose tireless efforts have seen the RESTORE Act to this point, especially Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter and Representatives Steve Scalise and Cedric Richmond,” said the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Louisiana Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy in a joint statement.
“The BP oil disaster devastated an already degraded coastal region, one that is suffering from a decades-long coastal land loss crisis. Fortunately, through Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan, we have the solutions in hand to repair ecosystems, increase resiliency and ensure the long-term sustainability of coastal communities. We encourage state and federal officials to do the right thing and ensure RESTORE Act funds go towards jumpstarting the critical restoration projects needed to ensure our coast’s survival.”
Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost more than 1,900 square miles of wetlands, an area roughly equivalent in size to the state of Delaware. A recent study by researchers at the University of Florida shows that the BP oil disaster accelerated land loss by killing the marsh grasses that hold the marsh together, doubling the rate of erosion in some areas.
Over the decades, the decline of the Mississippi River Delta’s wetlands has dramatically impaired protection from hurricanes and wiped out much of the buffer against future storms and disasters. The loss of wetlands also threatens:
One of our nation’s most important fisheries
One of our nation’s most significant port complexes and navigation systems
Wildlife, including tens of millions of migratory birds and waterfowl
Domestic energy production and processing
Communities all along the central Gulf Coast
Earlier this year, the Louisiana State Legislature unanimously approved the 2012 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, a 50-year blueprint for restoring Louisiana’s rapidly disappearing coastal wetlands and protecting the state’s natural resources and communities. Funding from the RESTORE Act could be used to implement Coastal Master Plan projects, which is expected to cost $50 billion over the next fifty years. A study by Mather Economics also demonstrates the potential job benefits of using RESTORE Act fines for restoration. The study estimates that a $25 billion investment could create as many as 57,000 jobs through restoration.
Without the RESTORE Act, fines from the spill would automatically be deposited into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to cover future spills elsewhere and into the Federal Treasury for unspecified general spending. With today’s vote and the President’s signature, this measure will ensure that Louisiana and the other Gulf Coast states struck by this historic disaster receive the funding necessary to make a full recovery.
“The RESTORE Act will not just help restore Louisiana’s ecosystems – the restoration projects it funds will also create new jobs and boost the state’s economy. This is a win-win for coastal communities along the delta,” the statement continued. “We look forward to working with the State and Administration to make sure these funds are used to revive the critical ecosystems and local economies that our nation depends on.”