Landrieu Unveils Oil Disaster Aid Package to Help Gulf Coast Businesses, Communities

May 21, 2010

Senator to introduce stand-alone legislation to accelerate revenue sharing from offshore energy for La.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., today held a press conference in Washington D.C. to unveil new legislation to begin revenue sharing with energy-producing Gulf Coast states immediately. The Restoring Ecosystem Sustainability and Protection on the Delta (RESPOND) Act would provide a much-needed revenue stream for Louisiana to defend itself from natural and manmade disasters, like the Gulf Coast oil spill.

“Nowhere in America is there an ecosystem more threatened than Louisiana’s wetlands,” Sen. Landrieu said. “Yet, nowhere was it more preventable. The federal government has failed time and time again – decade in and decade out – to protect our coast. As a result of this mismanagement and underinvestment, we have weakened marshes and fragile wetlands that are more susceptible to the impacts of this oil spill than they should be. If Congress takes the right action in the coming weeks, this coast can be restored for the 2 million people who live in South Louisiana, but also for the millions of Americans who depend on the energy produced off our shores. That effort begins with accelerating revenue sharing for Gulf Coast states, starting today. This profitable and productive working coast can no longer afford to be shortchanged by the federal government.”

The Domenici-Landrieu Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 dedicates a portion of offshore oil and gas revenues to coastal protection and restoration in the four Gulf Coast energy-producing states. Under Landrieu’s RESPOND Act, funds from new leases off Louisiana’s coast would be shared immediately, as opposed to 2017.

Today’s weakened marshes allow oil to penetrate more deeply, killing vegetation and destroying habitat deep within the wetland. As the vegetation dies, the natural eroding forces of the ocean quickly churn the soil into open water, eroding Louisiana’s natural buffers from storm surge and leaving coastal communities in ever greater peril.

Sen. Landrieu also announced a series of amendments would significantly bolster the $118 million Obama Administration aid package request, part of which was included in the Senate Supplemental Appropriations Bill passed by the Committee last week. The full Senate is expected to consider the emergency spending measure next week.

The Landrieu amendments include:

•Enhanced Claims Assistance & Support – Authorizing $20 million for the Economic Development Administration to help Gulf Coast residents and businesses file claims with BP, the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, private insurance or other programs. Without technical assistance, many coastal residents and business owners may lack the resources to effectively secure recompense for damages.
•Marketing Assistance – Authorizing $15 million to support tourism and seafood marketing to mitigate the damage being done to the Louisiana “brand”.
•Disaster Loan Relief – Providing interest relief up to $15,000 to the more than 12,000 Gulf Coast businesses still struggling to repay Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loans obtained following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. SBA would be required to prioritize applications for businesses with 50 employees or less, and businesses impacted by the Gulf oil spill.
•New Loan Deferrals – Authorizing SBA to defer payment on any new disaster loans granted as a result of this oil spill, interest free, for one year. These deferrals would act as an advance until claims with BP can be filed and paid.
•Expedite CIAP Grants – Expediting the delivery of Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) funds that are already appropriated for Louisiana, but are being held up by bureaucratic red tape at the Minerals Management Service. These funds are dedicated to projects to restore coastal wetlands, restore marine and coastal ecosystems, mitigating damages to fish and wildlife and other coastal conservation and mitigation efforts. The four-year program, created by Sen. Landrieu in 2005 Energy Policy Act, was designed to disburse all funds to states by 2010. However, less than 20 percent of the $1 billion in funds have been distributed to states.
•Accelerate Coastal Projects – Advancing $19 million in construction funding for authorized Louisiana Coastal Area projects in the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget request. These projects were authorized in the Water Resource Development Act of 2007. Projects such as river diversions, barrier island restoration and Mississippi River Gulf Outlet ecosystem restoration create a first line of defense to storm surge and oil spills, keep saltwater at bay and protect interior wetlands from tidal influences, rebuild fragmented wetlands, and restore the river’s natural land-building functions.
•Beneficial Use of Dredge Material – Ensuring the beneficial use of dredge material from authorized Army Corps of Engineers dredging projects in the area funded by the emergency supplemental appropriations bill. This language would provide the Corps with the authority and funding for the beneficial use of dredge material to shore up barrier islands, vulnerable wetlands, and shorelines through the Gulf Coast area affected by the oil spill.

Use a Highlighter on this page
Bookmark and Share

Leave a Reply