The global development and relief organization Oxfam America today welcomed a new, bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Richard Shelby (R-AL), joined by Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), David Vitter, (R-LA), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Thad Cochran, (R-MS), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Marco Rubio, (R-FL) and Kay Bailey-Hutchison (R-TX). The legislation, the RESTORE Gulf Coast Act, would ensure that penalties paid by BP and others responsible for last year’s Gulf oil disaster are used to help restore the region’s communities, economies and environments. This includes funding to restore the wetlands, estuaries, and barrier islands that socially vulnerable communities across the Gulf depend on as a source of livelihoods and protection from natural disaster, like flooding and deadly hurricanes. Oxfam America lauded Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who was instrumental in securing the agreement among the senators, and has pledged to consider this bill in her committee quickly.
“There has never been a greater need, nor a greater opportunity to develop a regional plan such as this legislation to help build more resilient coastal communities across America’s Gulf Coast, creating tens of thousands of new livelihood opportunities in the process,” said Paul O’Brien, vice president for policy and campaigns for Oxfam America.
“In addition to historic investments in restoring ecosystems, this legislation will help those most impacted by the oil spill, from low-income communities and industries like commercial fishing, to gain the skills they need to find good-paying work restoring critical natural resources. This legislation ensures local communities benefit not just ecologically but economically by promoting the hiring of local workers and use of local companies in projects to restore our coastline,” O’Brien said. “By investing in science and technology innovation, this bill can help the Gulf Coast to develop new industries to tackle water management and coastal protection challenges of the future across the globe.”
Currently, the Gulf Coast is home to over 80 percent of the United States’ annual coastal erosion, and almost half of annual wetlands loss, degrading billions of dollars worth of natural flood protection for coastal communities. The region’s fishery supports over $23B in economic activity, all of which remains threatened by the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill and decades of environmental degradation.
Nearly 500 miles – almost half – of the coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida that was contaminated by the Gulf oil disaster remains oiled one year later, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.