Groups Urge Congress to Heed Oil Spill Commission Recommendation to Use Clean Water Act Fines for Gulf Restoration

National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Report to the President

Eight non-profit groups today called on Congress to heed a key recommendation in the final report from the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.  The recommendation is that “Congress should dedicate 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties to long-term restoration of the Gulf of Mexico” (see page 280 of report).

“The oil spill commission recognizes that we cannot compound one tragedy with another,” said a joint statement by the Coalition to Restore Coastal LouisianaEnvironmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Ocean Conservancy, Oxfam America, and The Nature Conservancy.  “Absent congressional action, Clean Water Act fines automatically will be deposited into the federal treasury.  Congress should invest Clean Water Act penalties in the aggressive and comprehensive restoration of the ecosystem, creating thousands of new jobs and providing significant benefits to the commercial fishing and tourism industries, among others, impacted by the spill damage to the ecosystem.”

The Commission’s recommendation echoes a recent government report by Navy Secretary and former Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus.  The report details the need for a long-term environmental restoration plan for the Gulf Coast to fulfill President Obama’s “commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment [including] multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats.”  The report recommended that the President urge Congress to “allow a significant amount of any civil penalties recovered under the Clean Water Act from the Deepwater Horizon spill to be deposited into a Gulf Coast Recovery Fund managed by a Gulf Coast Recovery Council.”

“Now President Obama should work with the new Congress to secure the long-term funding to fulfill his promise to restore the Gulf Coast and make it better than it was before the Gulf oil disaster,” the groups concluded.  “The first critical step requires that the President and Congress work together to ensure that Gulf oil spill fines are dedicated to restoring the Gulf’s ecosystem.”