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RESTORE Act: Key Environmental Legislation or Blank Check for Businessmen and Developers?

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Not that I am blaming anyone — the idea of causing a potential delay (or worse, a clog) in an opportunity to throw a lifejacket around a (literally) drowning ecosystem is a risk that is hard to stomach. Yet after witnessing “activities” by Gulf states and local agencies concerning federal funds received from six years of hurricane disasters, it comes as no surprise Gulf Coast residents might fear a future of wasting away in KatrinaRitaville, searching for our lost coastline.

“When they took money that should have been for rebuilding the houses, and used it for the port [of Gulfport, Mississippi]… it was a huge misappropriation of funds, orchestrated by people who were not even from the Coast,” explains Long Beach resident Fritzi Presley. “[RESTORE Act money] is restoration money, it is intended to be used for restoring what was there, instead of providing for what can be,” she added.

Another important note is that 80 percent of nothing is still nothing — as Presley says, “There isn’t even any money yet.” The amount of funds available to coastal communities is yet to be known. If the Department of Justice decides to settle with BP, it could fall within a low estimate of $15 billion to a high of $25 billion. I bet you can guess the amount for which BP is shooting. Alternately what may happen (that is, if every analyst and Tarot card reader in the country is wrong) is that the United States, through the DOJ, and BP go to trial, leaving it to the courts to decide punitive damages. Of course, that would assuredly mean a larger amount of fines for BP and more funds available for the Gulf Coast.

Personally, going to trial is the option I like best. Not just because I look forward to the truth of how this disaster was handled coming out in deposition, but more because Keith Jones, father of killed oil worker Gordon Jones, has stated publically he would like it to be so. In my opinion, every one of those families deserves closure. Most importantly, how are we going to learn from our past if we do not honestly and completely investigate our mistakes? Sadly, sometimes for a corporation — especially for a repeat offender like BP — court is the only place the truth has a chance to surface and any real consequence be administered.

At any rate, even the DOJ end of the estimate is low-balled. According to an article by Antonia Juhasz, the real final bill for a letter-of-the-law itemization of fines BP owes is $192 billion. Although a $167 billion difference in fines may sound like going to trial is the obvious path, the trial isn’t even set to begin until January 13, 2013, and carrying it through would further delay the date on Gulf states’ deposit slips.

Whatever the final sum, the full magnitude of RESTORE will go far beyond the text of the act itself. How far in its address to the ecological needs of our often polluted, and regularly slighted region will be very much up to the citizens and advocates of the Gulf Coast, and beyond. As our not-so-long-ago history proves, ultimately the question of effectiveness will only be answered through a fair and unapologetic system of transparency and accountability in each Gulf state.

Truly, for Gulf advocates and citizenry, the real work of recovering from the disaster is just beginning.


Cherri Foytlin is a journalist, oil worker’s wife, mother of six, and Louisiana resident whose family has been deeply impacted by the BP Oil Disaster and consequential moratorium on deep water drilling. She co-founded Gulf Change, blogs for BridgeTheGulfProject.org, and walked to Washington D.C. from New Orleans (1,243 miles) to call for action to stop the BP oil disaster. She has been a constant voice, speaking out to the Obama Administration’s Gulf Oil Spill Commission, and in countless forms of media. Cherri will continue her fight for the industries, people, culture and wildlife of south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast “until we are made whole again.”

This post was originally posted on Bridge the Gulf.

Related Stories:

Two Years After BP Oil Spill, RESTORE Act Becomes Law

First Step to Create Fund for Gulf Coast Restoration

After Oil Spill, Don’t Shortchange Gulf

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Photo: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

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11 comments

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6:57AM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

If we fail to actually implement the engineering solution of carbon capture and storage ASAP to the problem of global warming, global warming will destroy agriculture, taking civilization with it. Then there will be no fossil fuel firms, and no government and hardly any population.

12:42PM PDT on Jul 22, 2012

thanks

9:29AM PDT on Jul 22, 2012

NO BLANK CHECKS! We need accountability!

3:37PM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

I like this woman.

1:01PM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

Sounds like the money's going to all the wrong places.

12:47PM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

In Switzerland, the people have the final say in passing a law or not. Good government comes from all the people, not from the best government money can buy.

9:13AM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

We are allowing corporations to literally kill people here in the United States with their toxic use of toxic chemicals and mining techniques. They used to only operate in other, more poor countries, where no one cared about those people "too lazy to work" so let them die from man made diseases. The corporations have discovered they can do the same thing on American soil because once again only the "lazy no good bums that refuse to work" are the targets. And who cares about poor people, even the poor people are too poor to care?

6:53AM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

BP still hasn't paid anything close to the damage they caused (and are still causing).

6:27AM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

Thank you for the article...

3:53AM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

I hope this money goes to restore the actual areas that were impacted by the BP oil spill and not for things like casinos. It should be used to bring the Gulf back as much as possible. I highly doubt that it will come back for decades, They need to watch closely where the funds are going as we know how corrupt some politicans are.

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