A year past the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Louisiana scored a major triumph in a long dispute with BP this morning. The oil giant agreed to fund $1 billion in coastal restoration projects as part of a settlement with trustees for the Natural Resource Damage Assessment authority on the oil spill.
BP’s billion will go toward early restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico to address injuries to natural resources caused by the spill, it was announced today. Involved as trustees for the NRDA are Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, the Department of the Interior (DOI), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Department of Justice provided assistance in reaching the agreement.
This early restoration agreement, the largest of its kind ever reached, represents a first step toward fulfilling BP’s obligation to fund the complete restoration of injured public resources, including the loss of use of those resources by the people living, working and visiting the area. The Trustees will use the money to fund projects such as the rebuilding of coastal marshes, replenishment of damaged beaches, conservation of sensitive areas for ocean habitat for injured wildlife, and restoration of barrier islands and wetlands that provide natural protection from storms.
The agreement in no way affects the ultimate liability of BP or any other entity for natural resource damages or other liabilities, but provides an opportunity to help restoration get started sooner. The selection of early restoration projects will follow a public process, and will be overseen by the Trustees.
The full natural resource damage assessment process will continue until the Trustees have determined the full extent of damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. At the end of the damage assessment process, the Trustees will take into account any benefits that were realized from these early restoration projects. In addition to funding early restoration projects, BP will continue to fund the damage assessment and, together with the other responsible parties, will ultimately be obligated to compensate the public for the entire injury. BP is providing the early restoration funds voluntarily, and is not required to do so at this stage of the damage assessment process. The agreement will speed needed resources to the Gulf in advance of the completion of the assessment process.
Louisiana’s elected officials were ecstatic over the news.
“This agreement is a great first step toward restoring our natural resources destroyed by the BP oil spill,” said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. “We are eager to continue working with public, state and federal co-trustees and BP to quickly convert this downpayment into projects to restore our damaged coast and replace our lost wildlife. We encourage BP to continue to address the damages from this spill through early restoration efforts.”
“This down payment is a positive step in our recovery from the oil spill, and I commend all the parties involved for coming together to get this first step done,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise. “Without this down payment from BP, Louisiana may have had to wait years to see any NRDA funding directed to our state. Like NRDA, securing the Clean Water Act fines that BP will have to pay is another critical step in our recovery, and I will continue fighting every day to make sure those fines are directed to Louisiana and the other coastal states that are still cleaning up the damage caused by this disaster.”
The fines Scalise noted are the central piece of legislation authored by Sen. David Vitter and Rep. Jeff Landry which would devote 80 percent of BP’s Clean Water Act settlement to coastal restoration. Vitter and Landry both claimed victory in today’s announcement, maintaining that the effort to push the fine proceeds into coastal restoration played a part in today’s settlement.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter applauded an agreement announced today that will direct BP to pay $1 billion for coastal resource restoration. Garrett Graves, chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, has cited Vitter’s Natural Resources Restoration Act as a vital bargaining chip in the negotiations.
“I am pleased that BP is fulfilling their responsibility to negotiate in good faith and allow Gulf Coast states to begin projects to restore our natural resources. I’m particularly thankful for Garret’s work in bringing BP to the negotiating table to secure this deal,” Vitter said. “This is a positive first step, but I will continue pushing my legislation to make BP immediately set aside a down payment for restoration projects of resources damaged by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”
“Waiting years to begin restoring the Gulf from the oil spill impacts is simply not an option. The Natural Resources Restoration Act authored by Senator Vitter added significant leverage to negotiations, and I still support its passage to further front-load restoration work,” said Graves.
“Today’s agreement is a great first step towards restoration of the Gulf Coast, and I commend Chairman Graves for his hard work in securing this first payment,” said Landry. “However, today’s announcement increases the necessity for our legislation to be passed. BP cannot buy the Coast off with a $1 billion upfront payment and think they can slow walk in providing the rest of what is owed.”
While Louisiana was primarily affected by the spill, the other states involved will get to wet their beaks considerably as well. According to today’s announcement, each of the five states will control at least $100 million to conduct coastal restoration projects.
- Each state – Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas – will select and implement $100 million in projects;
- The Federal Resource Trustees, NOAA and DOI, will each select and implement $100 million in projects;
- The remaining $300 million will be used for projects selected by NOAA and DOI from proposals submitted by the State Trustees.
“BP believes early restoration will result in identified improvements to wildlife, habitat and related recreational uses in the Gulf, and our voluntary commitment to that process is the best way to get restoration projects moving as soon as possible,” said Lamar McKay, chairman and president, BP America Inc. “Our voluntary agreement to accelerate restoration projects builds upon the cooperative approach BP has taken toward working with Gulf communities and regulators since the accident, and in assessing the potential injury to natural resources. We hope to work in partnership with the Trustee Council to address injured resources in the Gulf as soon as possible. We believe the early restoration projects to be funded through this agreement represent the best way forward in restoring the Gulf.”
BP says it will provide $500 million within 45 days to begin the coastal restoration projects, with another $500 million to follow in six months.