Congress passes RESTORE ActJul 3rd, 2012 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: news
The RESTORE Act, part of a massive transportation bill, passed the U.S. House 373-52 and U.S. Senate 74-19 on June 29 which means that 80 percent of BP’s Clean Water Act violations will be dedicated to the Gulf Coast.
The transportation bill, formally known as the Highway Conference Report, was supported by all members of the Louisiana delegation. It now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it into law.
The Clean Water Act fines are still being calculated, but they are expected to range anywhere from $5 billion to $20 billion. The final amount is dependent on how much negligence a federal judge holds BP responsible for.
Senator Mary Landrieu called the passage of the legislation a historic moment for Southeast Louisiana.
“The Gulf Coast states and our coastal residents and businesses should be very proud of Congressional action today,” said Landrieu in a statement. “These funds will help jumpstart, in a significant way, coastal restoration in Louisiana. We have the science, the plan and the will, and all we needed was the money — let’s get started.”
Director of Plaquemines Parish Coastal Zone Management Department, P.J. Hahn also agrees that the positive impact of the legislation will be felt for generations.
“The Restore Act will go a long way in addressing the impacts of the environmental and economic damage as a result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill which devastated our coastal waters, wildlife and communities over two years ago,” said Hahn. “It will help to create jobs and restore Plaquemines Parish for future generations. We are pleased that the Restore Act will not only send money to the affected coastal states, but more specifically direct funds specially to the individual parishes and counties that were impacted.”
At a July 2 town hall meeting in Chalmette, Senator David Vitter explained that the passage of the RESTORE Act is a major victory of the Gulf Coast, but it could take several more years for the state to receive its cut.
“Fines are being accessed and calculated, and that full calculation is going to take several more years–we don’t want to rush it and get an estimate that’s too low,” Vitter explained. “The full process will several more years, maybe up to five years. It’s not law or written in stone, but I would be hopeful that we’ll get start getting installments of that money in a year or so.”
The transportation portion of the bill allocates $679.8 million in the 2012 fiscal year and $685.6 million next year in highway financing for Louisiana. For mass transit, Louisiana is set to receive $51.82 million in the current fiscal year and $57.9 million in 2013, Landrieu said.
Additionally, the legislation will preserve 26,500 construction jobs in Louisiana, and provide the funding need to proceed with about 420 projects across the state.
Vitter, who was Louisiana’s lead negotiator and only conferee on the Transportation Bill, said the bill moves Louisiana from being a donor state. Previously, the state got back less than 91 cents in highway funding for every dollar its motorists paid in gasoline taxes. This year, the rate of return is $1.02.