Today, Aug. 13, the U.S. Treasury Department released an interim final ruling for how RESTORE Act funds will be spent.
The RESTORE Act sends 80 percent of all Clean Water Act fines resulting from the Deepwater Horizon spill back to the Gulf States.
The bottom line from today's ruling is that 35 percent of the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund will be divvied up equally among the five Gulf states. Since the Apr. 20, 2010 blowout and explosion off the Louisiana coast, environmental groups and residents impacted by the spill have lobbied long and hard to ensure BP takes care of the region.
So today's specific decision that 35 percent of the penalties from RESTORE funds will be paid directly into the trust fund for "eligible activities proposed by the State of Alabama, the State of Mississippi, the State of Texas, the State of Louisiana and 20 Louisiana parishes, and 23 Florida counties" was welcome news.
Further, today's ruling notes that "the Comprehensive Plan Component" sets aside 30 percent of the penalties, plus half of all interest earned on trust fund investments, to be managed by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.
The Council includes members from six federal agencies or departments, and they come from all five Gulf states.
Under what is called the "Spill Impact Component", entities representing the Gulf states are allowed to use another 30 percent of penalties in the trust fund for "eligible activities" if Council-approved.
The remaining five percent of penalties, plus one-half of all interest earned on trust fund investments, will be divided equally between NOAA's RESTORE Act Science Program
and the Centers of Excellence Research Grants Program.
In response to today's news, the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Campaign – a coalition of Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana – issued the following statement:
Today’s regulations are a vital step forward on the long road to restoring the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana, which was ground zero for the 2010 oil disaster. We thank the Treasury Department for preserving the RESTORE Act’s intended purpose to restore damaged ecosystems.
The Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana is a cornerstone for the ecological and economic well-being of the entire northern Gulf. But Louisiana is losing a football field of land every hour – a land loss crisis that was further exacerbated by the oil spill. All along the Gulf Coast, environmental restoration is urgently needed. There is no time to lose, especially in the delta.
We hope this rule will provide the RESTORE Council and the state of Louisiana with the information needed to expedite progress to develop a funded project list and restore our coast. Our communities, wildlife and local economies depend on comprehensive ecosystem restoration so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.”
To read a PDF of today's ruling from the U.S. Treasury Dept., please click here.