Restoring the Gulf Environment
A lack of sustained and predictable funding, together with failed project coordination and long-term planning, have resulted in incomplete and often ineffective efforts to restore the Gulf ’s natural environment. Currently, no funding source exists to support regional restoration efforts. Estimates of the cost of Gulf restoration vary widely, but according to testimony before the Commission, fully restoring the Gulf will require $15 billion–$20 billion, or a minimum of $500 million per year, over 30 years.
Several Gulf States and the federal government have filed or are expected to file suit against BP and other companies involved in the spill, which will likely create opportunities to direct new restoration funds to the region. In some cases, congressional action will be required to ensure that funds are directed to this purpose. Congress—recognizing that dedicated, sustained funding is necessary to accomplish long-term Gulf of Mexico ecosystem restoration—should direct 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties imposed for the spill to support implementation of a region-wide restoration strategy. Directing such payments to the Gulf could, for the next 10 years, provide significant funding.
Congress should also establish a joint state-federal Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. The structure of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council should inform the structure of the Gulf Coast Council on the question of the relative representation of the federal and state governments on the council. The Gulf Coast Council should implement a restoration strategy for the region that is compatible with existing state restoration goals. This strategy should set short- and long-term goals with criteria for selecting projects for funding. Key criteria should include (1) national significance; (2) contribution to achieving ecosystem resilience; and (3) the extent to which national policies such as those related to flood control, oil and gas development, agriculture, and navigation directly contributed to the environmental problem.