Despite the dire state of Louisiana’s coast, some legislators last spring made an attempt to co-opt Deepwater Horizon oil spill fines for other items in the state budget. They didn’t prevail. But the Legislature also refused to give the restoration money constitutional protection and left itself the power to raid it in the future. As lawmakers prepare for this year’s session, conservation groups are worried that there may be another effort to divert money away from the coast. With the state working with a tight budget, they are wise to be vigilant. The oil spill fines simply must be spent on coastal restoration, and Gov. Jindal and legislative leaders need to ensure that they are. The loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands is at a crisis level, and lawmakers ought to understand that.
The fine money from BP is the state’s best chance to jumpstart its $50 billion, 50-year master plan for coastal reconstruction. And it was a victory last summer when Congress agreed to commit 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines from the BP spill to Gulf Coast states under the Restore Act. As Louisiana’s congressional delegation worked to get the act passed, state legislators were flirting with ways to grab the money for other purposes. U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise intervened, urging lawmakers to abandon those efforts. They did — but only for the moment. Chris Macaluso, coastal outreach coordinator for the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, warned last week that Louisianians shouldn’t relax. “We saw last year attempts to redirect that money. We were able to thwart those efforts,” he said. “We’re going to have to be tremendously vigilant this legislative session so the Restore money goes where it’s supposed to go.”
Feb 18, 2013 No Comments ›› atuozzolo