July 3rd, 2012
The disappearing Louisiana coastline
moved one significant step closer to salvation when Congress approved
the RESTORE Act last week. Using money from pending penalties on BP for
the 2010 Gulf oil spill, a strategy to replenish fading marshland and
rebuild beaches can be put into action.
Just how much BP will have to pay is unknown. The penalties fall
under the Clean Water Act and will likely involve a fine for each barrel
of oil spilled. The cumulative sanction could be anywhere from $5
billion to $20 billion.
The money is not yet available to the impacted states, as the U.S.
Department of Justice continues its investigation into the Macondo well
explosion. In the meantime, it is critical that safeguards be put in
place to ensure the money dedicated to coastal restoration is actually
spent for that purpose.
Whether it’s seafood bounty it supplies or the buffer it provides
from hurricanes, our coastline is undeniably valuable. This is likely
the best, and last, opportunity to preserve what’s arguably Louisiana’s
most valuable natural resource.
Working in the state’s favor is that there’s a consensus plan in
place to replenish the marsh, barrier islands and other coastal
features. The $50 million master plan will receive a hefty cash infusion
from the BP penalties, and the remaining money needed is likely to come
from increased offshore drilling royalties that will start flowing to
Louisiana in the near future. The state’s congressional delegation
secured that money which had previously gone to inland states that bore
no risk in Gulf energy exploration.