Ocean Currents » RESTORE Act http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Mon, 31 Aug 2015 22:39:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Victory in the Gulf: BP Finally Pays Up http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/02/victory-in-the-gulf-bp-finally-pays-up/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/02/victory-in-the-gulf-bp-finally-pays-up/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 19:24:57 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10369

Five years ago today, oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig was still gushing unabated into the Gulf of Mexico, impacting countless wildlife, oiling shorelines and devastating coastal communities from Texas to Florida. Shortly after the disaster occurred, both President Obama and BP promised to restore the Gulf of Mexico, and today marks the single biggest step forward in restoring the Gulf.

Today BP and the five Gulf states have agreed to an unprecedented $18.7 billion settlement to resolve the outstanding fines that BP still owes for damaging the Gulf. While details are still emerging, here are some of the highlights:

  • $5.5 billion to resolve Clean Water Act civil penalties, with some portion of that money being directed to each of the five Gulf states. This includes approximately $1.3 billion that will go to the RESTORE Council to implement comprehensive restoration from Texas to Florida, from the coast to the blue water. Read more about the RESTORE Act and restoration here.
  • $8.1 billion (including $1 billion down payment BP already provided for early restoration) to resolve natural resource damages that are directly related to the impacts of the oil disaster. We are particularly pleased to see that this allocation includes $1.24 billion for projects in the open ocean! This means that we will be able to restore impacts beyond the shore, where the disaster began and where we continue to learn about troubling impacts to fish, corals and dolphins.
  • $350 million to continue assessing the damage caused by the disaster.
  • Finally, $5 billion will go to the Gulf states to resolve economic claims.

One of Ocean Conservancy’s key concerns is that our government leaders are able to address long-term impacts from the disaster that we might not know about today. We are pleased to see a dedicated restoration reserve to address injuries documented after the settlement agreement. We know from other oil spills that understanding the full impacts to wildlife and habitats can take decades to fully understand, and we need to make sure we have money set aside to address impacts if and when they emerge.

After five years of work from Ocean Conservancy’s staff and our many partners, we are relieved to see one chapter of our Gulf restoration work end and a new one begin. One thing is clear: there is still a lot of work to be done, and it will take all of us working together to ensure that all of this money is spent in  the spirit it was intended and in a way that honors the lives that were lost in the tragic events of April 20, 2010. It’s time to get down to the business of restoring the Gulf and create a legacy that we can all be proud of.

Thank you for all you have done to help protect the Gulf of Mexico, a national treasure and my home.

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BP Back in Court http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/01/20/bp-back-in-court/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/01/20/bp-back-in-court/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 13:00:22 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9713

BP once again must appear in court today as the final phase of the BP trial begins in New Orleans. This is the third phase of a multiyear trial to determine how much BP and other responsible parties should pay for their role in the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Just last Thursday, the Judge issued another ruling, finding that 3.19 million barrels of oil were released into the Gulf. This means that the maximum fine BP will face is $13.7 billion. This final phase of the trial will focus on eight factors, as required by the Clean Water Act, including BP’s history of prior violations and the seriousness of this violation.

A key factor in court will be BP’s efforts to minimize the harm. In other words, did BP do enough in responding to the disaster to justify lowering their fine? Yes, BP took efforts to stop the flow from the well and the spread of oil, but BP also lied about the rate at which oil was spewing from the well.

The economic impact of the penalty on BP will be interesting to watch as well. The court will need to determine whether this inquiry focuses on BP (the parent company) as a whole or only on its subsidiary, BP Exploration & Production, known as BPXP. BP is expected to argue that the recent dip in oil prices should be factored into this inquiry. (This assertion, as you might expect, has been met with criticism.)

A third factor will be the issue of simple vs. gross negligence. That question was answered back in September when the court ruled that the oil disaster was the result of BP’s “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct,” Though this sounds like legalese, this ruling is extremely important; it means more funding will be available for restoring the Gulf. Funding for restoration projects via the RESTORE Act comes from Clean Water Act fines. And the finding of “gross negligence,” rather than ordinary negligence, means that fines can be as high as $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled, instead of $1,100. Eighty percent of the Clean Water Act fines will be used to repair and restore the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and the communities and economies that depend on it.

These penalty factors will be hotly debated during the trial starting today, and arguments will help determine whether the judge leans toward the high end of $13.7 billion or the low end of $7 billion. We can expect BP to argue for sympathy and leniency (i.e., “we’ve been punished enough; we’ve learned our lesson.”) BP will likely call attention to the money it spent on cleanup and capping the well back in 2010 (which was required by law). The courtroom action will last two or three weeks, and then the parties will file briefs with the court until late April. But there is no established timeline for when the judge will issue a ruling. And, of course, there is always the possibility that the parties could agree on a settlement.

Regardless of how this trial ends, a successful resolution must include funding to monitor the Gulf ecosystem over the course of 25 years, restoration that includes the offshore environment where the oil disaster began, and a transparent decision-making process that allows the public to participate in a meaningful way.

Many questions still loom, but we know a few things for certain. We know the people of the Gulf Coast and the coastal and marine ecosystems of the Gulf will feel the effects of the BP oil disaster for years to come. But from this disaster comes an opportunity to restore and chart a new path for the Gulf. Restoration is already underway, and this final phase of the trial gets us one step closer to justice and a healthier future for the Gulf.

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Breaking: Great News For the Gulf of Mexico http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/04/breaking-great-news-for-the-gulf-of-mexico/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/04/breaking-great-news-for-the-gulf-of-mexico/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 15:59:00 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9153

Today, a judge found  that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster was the direct result of BP’s “’gross negligence’ and ‘willful misconduct’” under the Clean Water Act. What does this mean for the Gulf? It means more funding available for restoring the Gulf.

Funding for restoration projects via the RESTORE Act comes from Clean Water Act fines. And a finding of “gross negligence,” rather than ordinary negligence, means that fines can be as high as $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled, instead of $1,100. The result of today’s court decision could mean a fine as high as $17.6 billion, 80% of which will be used to repair and restore the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and the communities and economies that depend on it.

Over the past four years, BP has spent inordinate amounts of time and money shirking responsibility, pointing fingers at others and downplaying the seriousness of the disaster. Today, the court is holding BP responsible.

The judge still must rule on the amount of oil spilled – a major factor determining the ultimate amount of fines. The third stage of the trial will begin in January 2015.

 

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Restoration Report Card: Gulf Council Fails at Public Participation http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/21/restoration-report-card-gulf-council-fails-at-public-participation/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/21/restoration-report-card-gulf-council-fails-at-public-participation/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 01:09:56 +0000 Kara Lankford http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9069

Today the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council made some big announcements and provided more information on how they will choose projects to restore the Gulf. We’ve graded the Council’s efforts today, and the results are a mixed bag.

Project selection process: B+

The Council announced that the window for submitting projects to restore the Gulf starts today and will be open until at least November 17. They’ve also provided a detailed strategy on how they will evaluate projects based on science and the goals of the Council. While some questions remain, these details further lay the groundwork for the Council to select projects based on merit, not politics. For example, how will the science reviews be used to further prioritize projects? Will reviewers be permitted to rank projects as high, medium or low priority to guide Council staff recommendations? Will the public have access to summaries of independent reviews to help inform their comments? Answers to these questions are important, but overall, this is great news for the Gulf.

Public participation: F

The Council’s new fact sheet on public participation doesn’t provide details about how they plan to achieve meaningful public engagement across the Gulf Coast. Since the Council was formed with the passage of the RESTORE Act in 2012, they have frequently reiterated the importance of public engagement. In the spring of this year, Council staff made the rounds in each of the five Gulf states to ask conservation nonprofits, community leaders and fishermen for recommendations on how to engage the public in restoring the Gulf. These groups provided input under the impression that a process for participation and involvement was coming. Now, there is no mention of these recommendations in the Council’s fact sheet.

The Council states they “will continue to seek input from the public as it continues its work to plan for and implement large-scale ecosystem restoration projects across the Gulf region.” However, they fail to outline how this will be achieved. There is no website for sending project ideas to the Council and no list of community meetings for Gulf residents to speak out about how Gulf restoration dollars should be spent. The Council should seek public participation as a cohesive body, not as individual agencies or states. This will ensure a coordinated, consistent process across the five Gulf states, and will allow for all council members to hear from the Gulf Coast citizens, from Texas to Florida.

The Council also states “restoration work in the Gulf region will not be successful without genuine and meaningful input from the people in the region.” We couldn’t agree more. With a task so critical and personal to the people of the Gulf Coast, their involvement should be front and center. The Council should stay true to their word and provide a meaningful platform for Gulf Coast residents to be involved in the restoration process.

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Oil Disaster Trial Phase 2: BP vs. Reality http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/10/23/oil-disaster-trial-phase-2-bp-vs-reality/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/10/23/oil-disaster-trial-phase-2-bp-vs-reality/#comments Wed, 23 Oct 2013 12:00:17 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6856 Seabirds in the Gulf are threatened by oil from the BP spill.

Photo: Kris Krug via Flickr

The following is an excerpt from a post that first appeared on Huffington Post:

It’s been more than three years since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster grabbed worldwide attention. The explosive blowout that tragically claimed the lives of 11 workers on board the rig in April 2010 also unleashed an unprecedented amount of oil that flowed uncontrolled into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days. The impacts have been staggering and ongoing.

BP’s actions to stop the oil, as well as how much actually spewed into the Gulf, were the subject of the second phase of BP’s trial in New Orleans, which concluded last week. The final phase of the trial will take place next year, after which the judge will determine the penalties. In the meantime, here are some things you need to know.

BP’s public messaging around the trial has usually fallen into one of three categories:

  1. We’ve done a lot already.
  2. We intend to pay for the damages.
  3. We’re being ripped off.

But here’s the truth:

  1. What they’ve done is far below what is needed to fully restore the Gulf economy and ecosystem.
  2. Their actions contradict their claim that they intend to pay for full restoration.
  3. The people of the Gulf are the ones who stand to be ripped off.

Read more at Huffington Post.

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No Truth in Advertising: BP Avoiding Gulf Restoration http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/22/no-truth-in-advertising-bp-avoiding-gulf-restoration/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/22/no-truth-in-advertising-bp-avoiding-gulf-restoration/#comments Thu, 22 Aug 2013 18:47:24 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6554 Boom and pelicans in the Gulf of Mexico

Photo © Cheryl Gerber / Ocean Conservancy

Have you seen the BP commercials about the company taking responsibility for the worst oil disaster in U.S. history? I for one usually see at least one every week. That’s because for the past three years, the company has spent hundreds of millions on advertising trying to clean up their image. But unfortunately, BP hasn’t been as diligent about spending money to actually clean up the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster they claim to be taking responsibility for.

Even as their advertisements continue to run on air, BP is now fighting its own settlement and refusing to provide much-needed funding to the people impacted by the disaster and to restoration efforts critical to bring back the health of Gulf ecosystems and marine life.

Why? Because BP claims that the people who lost their jobs and their way of life are trying to scam the company. This despite the fact that while BP makes about $4 billion in profit every three months, many people who lost their livelihoods have waited more than three years to receive compensation for their losses.

Instead of taking responsibility for the oil disaster in the Gulf and all of the repercussions to the people and wildlife who call the Gulf region home, BP is going out of its way to shirk responsibility for paying economic claims they already agreed to in court.

Now BP is taking a step even further by suing the U.S. government, claiming that being barred from pursuing new federal contracts (keep in mind that this was part of the punishment the company received for the oil disaster in the first place) is potentially costing them billions of dollars.

Despite BP’s completely astonishing legal maneuvers recently, there is progress being made. This week the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council released its Comprehensive Restoration Plan. Ocean Conservancy (and about a thousand of our supporters—thank you!) provided comments on what the plan should include to ensure that restoration is truly comprehensive. Read more about our recommendations here.

RESTORE Act funding is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something great for the Gulf. The task before the council is to use the plan as a blueprint to guide the development of a science-based process to ensure that projects ultimately selected for funding will contribute to a vision for comprehensive restoration of the Gulf ecosystem from coastal areas to the marine environment.

But a plan is only as good as the funds to implement it. As the news reports regarding BP continue to come out—detailing their court battles over settlement payments to oil spill estimate—one thing is for sure: We need to ensure the communities and livelihoods that were damaged by this disaster get the resources they need to recover. Restoring the Gulf to health after decades of degradation, including, most recently, the BP oil disaster, will ensure that we enjoy these benefits for many years to come.

We look forward to the council meeting next week and sharing our insight with members regarding what is now needed to get the plan to a place where it can be funded and implemented.

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