A legislative proposal called the Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (known as the “RESTORE Act”) was developed to direct a portion of the Clean Water Act civil penalties from the Deepwater Horizon disaster to Gulf restoration. President Obama signed the RESTORE Act into law on July 6, 2012.
The RESTORE Act creates a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. The Fund will receive 80% of any civil penalties paid under the Clean Water Act by the parties responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Fund will support a variety of projects aimed at helping the Gulf recover from environmental and economic injuries experienced as a result of decades of oil and gas development in the region, including the effects of Deepwater Horizon.
How Much Money Might Be Involved?
The CWA grants the court discretion to calculate civil penalties on the basis of either the duration of the spill ($37,500–140,000 per day) or the amount of oil discharged ($1,100-4,300 per barrel). The Deepwater Horizon spill lasted 87 days. Exactly how many barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf is still in dispute, but the federal government estimates 4.1 million barrels. The actual amount of penalties will depend on whether a court opts to apply a per-barrel or per-day penalty , the court’s factual findings about the spill, whether the court finds the responsible parties acted with gross negligence or willful misconduct, and whether the case is settled or goes to trial.
Potential Funds from the Deepwater Horizon CWA Penalties:*
*In Sept. 2014, the court determined that the oil spill was the result of BP’s “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct.” BP is
therefore subject to enhanced penalties. The quantity of oil discharged into the water has yet to be determined by the court.
We use 4.1 million barrels, which is the estimate of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Flow Rate Technical Group in their
What Will the RESTORE Act Do?
Funds directed to the Gulf by the RESTORE Act will be used for several different purposes:
What is the Relationship Between the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council?
The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force was created by an Executive Order of the President in 2010. In December 2011, after a year of research and over 40 public meetings, the Task Force published a comprehensive Restoration Strategy for the Gulf of Mexico. Among its various recommendations, the Task Force suggested that a successor body be created to carry on its work.
The RESTORE Act created the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, a region-wide body with representatives from the five Gulf states and relevant federal agencies. The RESTORE Act requires the Restoration Council to, among other things, incorporate the Task Force’s Restoration Strategy in its comprehensive plan for Gulf ecosystem restoration. The Restoration Council held its first public meeting on December 11, 2012.
How Can I Participate in RESTORE Act Implementation?
There will be many opportunities for the public to get involved with the implementation of the RESTORE Act. These include:
Commenting on any settlement reached between the federal government and the companies responsible for the spill. The amount of civil penalties that are paid by BP and other companies responsible for the spill may be determined through a settlement agreement. If so, the proposed agreement will be open for public comment before the court determines whether or not to approve it.
Reviewing the final rule when it becomes available. The RESTORE Act called on the U.S. Department of the Treasury to establish procedures for administering RESTORE Act funds and for assessing the compliance of funded projects. The draft procedures were released in September 2013. On August 15, 2014, Treasury released an interim final rule. Comments were due Sept. 15, 2014, and will be effective Oct. 14, 2014.
Submitting project ideas to individual Council members; reviewing and commenting on the project lists when they become available for public comment; participating in meetings hosted by Council members. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council approved its Final Initial Comprehensive Plan for restoring the Gulf Coast on August 28, 2013. In August 2014, the Council released its guidelines for submitting proposals. Only Council members may submit proposals (the first project submission window will be open until at least Nov. 17, 2014).
Monitoring proposed Council actions and deliberations. “Appropriate” Council actions and deliberations must be made available to the public “via electronic means” prior to Council votes.
Submitting project ideas to the lead entities in each state; reviewing and commenting on plans. Before receiving funds based on spill impacts, Gulf states must develop funding plans that list the projects that will receive grants. Per Treasury’s interim final rule, the public must have at least 45 days to review and comment on the plans. The Council has released a rule that allows states to apply for grants to develop their funding plans. The rule was effective on Aug. 22, 2014; comments were accepted until Sept. 22, 2014.
While no specific opportunities are identified in the Act, program leads have periodically sought public input on program development and indicated that a draft science plan and environmental assessment will be available for public comment. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is tasked with establishing the NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program to carry out research, observation, and monitoring to support the “long-term sustainability” of Gulf ecosystems and fisheries.
Per Treasury’s interim final rule, Gulf states must show that their rules and policies for grants (including the selection of Centers of Excellence) were available for public comment for at least 45 days. Each of the Gulf states will receive funds to be used to award competitive grants to Gulf Coast NGOs, consortia, or universities to establish “Centers of Excellence.”
For more details about the RESTORE Act: