March 7, 2012
Dear Mr. Stafford:
Thank you for contacting me about funding to protect and restore ecosystems along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I appreciate hearing from you and share your interest in restoring our coastal wetlands.
Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana introduced the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2011 (S. 1400). The Act would establish a trust fund to support the Gulf Coast states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, in their efforts to restore areas affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Funds for the trust fund would come from the penalties paid by the parties responsible for the oil spill. S. 1400 was voted favorably by the Environment and Public Works Committee and it awaits further Senate consideration.
Additionally, various bills have been introduced in the House of Representatives to address coastal restoration, including the Gulf Coast Restoration Act (H.R. 56), the Gulf of Mexico Economic and Environmental Restoration Act of 2011 (H.R. 480), the Gulf Coast Economic and Tourism Restoration Act (H.R. 1333), and a bill that implements the recommendations of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling (H.R. 501).
On October 5, 2010, President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. Members from various federal agencies and representatives from Gulf states comprise the Taskforce, which is charged with developing a Gulf Coast ecosystem restoration strategy. The Task Force has hosted a series of public meetings and online discussions as the White House's Restore the Gulf initiative coordinates restoration efforts across the various agencies.
The Gulf Coast is home to 10 National Parks, 36 National Wildlife Refuges, and approximately 15.6 million acres of wetlands. These areas are vital to the Gulf states. In addition to supporting commercial fishing operations, these areas help minimize flooding, limit shoreline erosion, and provide a habitat for numerous species of plants and wildlife. Unfortunately, disasters like Hurricane Katrina and, more recently, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have caused serious damage to these areas. The effects of these disasters on the ecosystems of the Gulf Coast will be felt for years to come.
I will keep your support for the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2011 in mind should it be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.
Thank you again for your message. Please feel free to keep in touch.
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator