Although the BP oil spill occurred nearly six years ago, the Gulf South continues to reel from one of the nation’s largest ecological disasters. At the end of 2015, a RESTORE Act council meeting ultimately determined how money would be divided amongst the Gulf South states to aid in their coastal restoration efforts. Gulfwide projects range from $8 million for a Gulf of Mexico habitat restoration program to $2.2 million dedicated to the creation a Gulf of Mexico estuary program for one or more bays in Florida’s northwest panhandle region. As it becomes clear how the funds will be divided throughout the region, businesses stand to benefit from this concerted restoration effort. Through proposals and bids for potential work businesses have the chance to utilize their specific skills to restore the Gulf Coast. Here at EMH, our work in both the public and private sectors has uniquely equipped us to be a resource in any efforts to navigate an important chapter in region’s history.
Division of Funds
Under the Clean Water Act, responsible parties transfer funds to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, which in turn distributes in three primary ways:
- 35% of the fund is to be divided equally amongst the five Gulf Coast states.
- 30% of the fund is dedicated to environmental restoration projects that are determined by Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. Specifically, members include representatives from the Gulf South states and federal agencies such as the Commerce and Agriculture departments, the Environmental Protection Agency.
- 30% of the fund to be distrusted according to the Oil Spill Impact Allocation Formula. Of this 30% the states will receive the following: Louisiana – 34.59%, Alabama – 20.40%, Mississippi – 19.07%, Florida – 18.36%, Texas – 7.58%.
- The remaining 5% is split between the Gulf Coast fisheries monitoring program and the Gulf Coast Centers of Excellence research centers.
Essentially, the settlement of $18.7 billion will be divided according to the above guidelines for the expressed purpose of mitigating some of the lasting effects of the BP oil spill. Each state is responsible for selecting the necessary projects that will serve to help restore the Gulf Coast. This represents a unique opportunity for businesses to capitalize on an opportunity to grow, while simultaneously helping to repair a Gulf Coast region that is in desperate need of repair. It should be noted that opportunities vary greatly by state; while Texas leads the region in terms of transparency and dedication to sound allocation of funds, for example, other states such and Alabama and Louisiana continue to struggle as they face larger financial struggles.
Specifically, Louisiana’s looming budget crisis may cause funds to be diverted away from coastal restoration for other purposes. Barry Erwin, President of Council for a Better Louisiana, remains optimistic about the prospects for business revitalization stating, “coastal restoration stands to become a long-term industry within the state. The success of coastal restoration is going to be a long process and the work will ultimately need to be completed by the hands of citizens.” Keeping an eye on the larger trends of the region, and how businesses fit in is something we strongly believe in. The RESTORE Act, and all other coastal restoration efforts are ongoing processes, which can be difficult to navigate. However, at EMH we are confident that we can assist you in developing a strong and efficient plan to be a part of this important moment.
Andrew J. Albert