On March 8, the RESTORE Act passed as an amendment to the Senate transportation bill by a vote of 76 to 22. The Senate and House of Representatives must now pass the transportation bill to carry the amendment forward.
The RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act was originally introduced by nine of the 10 gulf state senators, including Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and was also supported by Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Boxer.
The Senate’s approval of the RESTORE Act follows the House’s recent approval of an amendment by the same name introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.).
The amendment will ensure that Clean Water Act penalties collected from those responsible for the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill will be dedicated to Gulf Coast restoration. The amendment also contains a two-year funding plan for the Land and Water Conservation Fund of $700 million per year and the reauthorization of LWCF through 2022.
LWCF provides matching grants to states and local governments to acquire and develop public outdoor recreation areas and facilities. It also funds shared federal land acquisition and the development of conservation strategy.
Here are a few of the major provisions in the amendment:
- Eighty percent of Clean Water Act civil penalties from the oil spill would be directed to restoration of the Gulf Coast environment and local economies. According to the Audubon Society, this could total as much as $20 billion.
- Resources would be distributed equitably among affected Gulf Coast states, allowing them to launch immediate recovery efforts.
- Oversight would ensure that all spill-related funds are spent responsibly and only for their intended purposes.
- A newly established Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council would develop and fund a comprehensive plan for the region’s ecological recovery.
- The Land and Water Conservation Fund would receive $1.4 billion over the next two years to help it purchase sensitive lands across the U.S.
View the bill’s full text here.