The state is setting up a workgroup to help prioritize coastal restoration projects that could be funded after Clean Water Act fines from the Deepwater Horizon oil leak become available.
Garret Graves, chairman of the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, told the agency Wednesday that there are two possible ways the state could receive some of those fines for restoration work.
The first is the current method, in which federal and state officials sit down with the party responsible for the leak and determine how much oil was leaked.
Under the Clean Water Act, the fine can be levied at $1,100 per barrel released and the fine could go up to $4,300 per barrel if gross negligence is shown, Graves said.
Whatever dollar amount is settled on, up to 80 percent of that money can go toward “supplemental environmental projects,” which Louisiana could use for coastal restoration work, he said.
The second way the state could receive the funds is outlined in legislation that would start with 80 percent of the fine money going back to the states affected by the leak in the following way: 7 percent to each of the five states, 30 percent to start a comprehensive planning process for the region and 30 percent split between the states based on impact from the oil. The remaining 5 percent would go to Gulf Coast Centers of Excellence for research.
Either way, Louisiana should start preparing a list of projects that could be funded from the fines. So, Graves said, the state is setting up a Clean Water Act Workgroup made up of staff from the Attorney General’s Office, state Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Protection and Restoration and the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office.
The project could include work in Louisiana’s coastal marshes or it could even help build wetlands in the upper Mississippi River to help reduce the amount of nutrients that flow into the Gulf of Mexico and cause a dead zone of low oxygen every summer, he said.