Oxfam America and its partners in the Gulf region congratulate the U.S. Senate today for its strong bipartisan approval of an amendment to dedicate 80 percent of the civil fines from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster to restoring gulf communities, ecosystems and the economy. The amendment to the Senate transportation bill, introduced by Senators Mary Landrieu, Bill Nelson and Richard Shelby was based on bill, the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act, sponsored by the three members and six other Gulf State Senators. The bill also received strong support also from Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer.
“As we approach the two year anniversary of the largest oil spill in our nation’s history, we continue to lament the lost jobs, damaged wetlands, and struggling fisheries that so many communities face in the Gulf as a result of the impacts of this tragedy,” said Ray Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America. “Congratulations to Senators Landrieu, Nelson and Shelby along with Senator Boxer and the Gulf region Senators who championed this effort to ensure that that the people and the ecosystems of the Gulf are made whole again.”
The legislation will ensure that penalties paid by BP and others responsible for last year’s Gulf oil disaster are used to rebuild the economies of Gulf Coast communities that were impacted by the spill and to restore the ecosystems and fisheries so many depend on for their livelihoods and to protect their communities. Oxfam America has been working with Congress to ensure the bill helps impacted workers access job and training opportunities in these projects, so struggling low income families can find good paying jobs restoring the coast.
“In any disaster, socially vulnerable communities stand to suffer the most. The oil spill was no different. The RESTORE Act has the potential to lift up those communities, revitalize the region economically, and do so in a way that is environmentally sustainable,” said Offenheiser. “We are heartened that the Senate has recognized the tremendous opportunity that these funds will have both in the region and to the American economy.”
The Gulf region and its environment support some of this country’s most vital industries—from shipping to energy to seafood—and its restoration could spur new opportunities. A joint report by Oxfam America and the Center for American Progress found the state of Louisiana alone projects 45,000 jobs would be generated from coastal restoration and protection projects over the next twenty years. A Duke University released a study in December showing that the RESTORE Act could create jobs that would benefit at least 140 businesses across the country with nearly 400 employee locations in 37 states.