Clean Water Act & RESTORE
The Clean Water Act (CWA) levies civil and criminal penalties on parties that violate its oil discharge prohibitions, and was triggered by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. In response, 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 incident to Gulf restoration. President Obama signed the RESTORE Act into law on July 6, 2012.
An Overview of the RESTORE Act
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:*
*The quantity of barrels of oil discharged into the water is currently being litigated. We use 4.1 million barrels in the above chart because that was the estimate of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Flow Rate Technical Group in their 2011 report
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. For more information about the Task Force and its restoration strategy, click here.
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:
Monitoring the Gulf Coast Restoration Council. The Council must make all of their major actions known to the public before any decision is made.
Commenting on the Restoration Council’s plan when it is published.The Council must propose a 10-year plan and a 3-year list of projects to receive RESTORE funds. Once the plan is published, any member of the public will be able to comment on the initial plan.
Helping develop state & local implementation plans. All state and local governments receiving RESTORE funds must develop plans for how they will use the money. Any restoration projects in the plans must be selected with input from the public.
Commenting on any settlements in the Clean Water Act case. The amount of CWA fines that responsible parties will pay may be determined by an out-of-court settlement. The public can comment on the “consent decree” – the court judgment approving the settlement.
For more details about the RESTORE Act: