Need for Transparency in Early Restoration Efforts from BP Disaster
Gulf Future Coalition introduces community-based project selection process
Gulf Coast, USA – Groups in the Gulf Future Coalition have released Sunshine on the Gulf: The Case for Transparency in Restoration Project Selection, a report that outlines the need for formal public participation in restoration decision-making that is already happening and puts forth a framework for evaluating the many proposed early restoration projects that are being decided now.
“Our region has a history of using damage compensation dollars for inappropriate pork projects, so we’ve got to set up transparent processes now to ensure BP’s early restoration dollars actually lead to restoration,” said Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director of the Gulf Restoration Network.
The public has been largely excluded from discussions of how to spend the $1 billion dollars BP provided as a pre-payment towards their responsibilities under the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA), a process of injury assessment and determination of responsible party liability that can take many years. The only formal public comment is currently scheduled for the very end of the process, once government and BP have negotiated which projects should be presented.
“This is the largest undertaking in Gulf history, and input from the residents of the Gulf Region should be a major part of the process at every stage,” said Nathalie Walker with Advocates for Environmental Human Rights. “People’s lives and livelihoods depend on a sustainable and healthy Gulf, so we’re introducing our own criteria for evaluating restoration projects.”
The Gulf Future framework prioritizes projects that contribute to the recovery and sustainability of the Gulf by (1) improving specific ecosystem impairments; (2) creating public health safeguards; (3) supporting local economies through workforce development, local hiring, and local contracting; (4) engaging public participation; and (5) involving a plan for evaluating outcomes that can be monitored by the public.
Unfortunately, the majority of the projects evaluated lacked in public participation and efforts to build a restoration economy for local communities. “As we work to rebuild our environment after BP’s oiling of our coasts, we want to make sure that local residents and small and disadvantaged businesses are employed and receive contracts on all coastal restoration projects,” said Reverend Tyronne Edwards of the Zion Travelers’ Cooperative Center.
The report goes on to use the criteria to evaluate proposed restoration projects throughout the Gulf that have been made public.
“From an outrageous proposal to capture live, healthy dolphins for display in Mississippi to beneficial marsh rebuilding in Louisiana, the projects run the gamut of possibilities,” said Jill Mastrototaro, Sierra Club Gulf Coast Campaign Director, “The Coalition’s report demonstrates that meaningful public participation is essential to the success of restoration efforts.”
To view a copy of the report, visit www.gulffuture.org.