Groups Support Bipartisan Call for President to Fulfill Commitment to Restore Gulf Coast

Three environmental groups joined a bipartisan call for action on Monday 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 this morning, 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.

“We need President Obama’s leadership to make restoration a reality. Without restoration, each new disaster will sow the seeds of more destruction — of wetlands, wildlife, and communities — and Louisiana’s coastal region will remain on a path to eventual destruction,” said a joint statement by Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation.

The three groups 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 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.

“While the BP oil disaster still is high on the national agenda, the Senate should act now on our primary recommendation: designating the funding needed to fulfill the President’s pledge to restore the Gulf Coast to make it better than before the oil disaster began,” concluded the three groups. “Otherwise, we risk losing critical momentum — and five years after Hurricane Katrina — leaving Louisiana in peril, while putting our nation’s fragile economy at further risk.”

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