Treasury Plans Oversight for Gulf Restoration

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Treasury Department proposed a rule detailing its oversight and investment in the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Trust Fund, which was established in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
     The RESTORE Act created a council made up of governors from the five Gulf Coast states affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill, and the secretaries of various federal agencies. It is chaired by the Secretary of Commerce.
     The act transfers 80 percent of penalties related to the spill to a restoration trust fund, and sets out a structure for how the funding will be used to restore the damaged ecosystems in the region.
     Among other things, the act dedicates 35 percent of the trust fund to be divided among the states for ecological restoration, economic development and tourism promotion, according to a government website for the law.
     The Treasury Department has issued a proposed rule involving the deposit and expenditure of money from the trust fund, including compliance measures and auditing requirements.
     The Treasury noted the economic and environmental importance of the Gulf Coast region in its notice of proposed rulemaking. “This region is an area in which the people, animals, minerals, land, and water are interconnected. The ecosystem and resources are vitally important to the United States economy, contributing about 30 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2009.
     The region provides more than 90 percent of the nation’s offshore oil and natural gas production and one-third of the nation’s seafood. The region has 13 of the top 20 ports by tonnage and significant recreation and tourism.” “Treasury’s statutory role is not to determine which projects and programs will best restore the Gulf Coast region. For the direct component, Congress authorized the Gulf Coast states, Florida counties, and Louisiana parishes to make these choices,” the department wrote.
     “Instead, Treasury will review applications to determine that they document, with some specificity, compliance with eligibility and other requirements in the RESTORE Act and federal laws and policies applying to grants.”
     The proposed rule establishes procedures for issuing grants to the Gulf Coast states, Florida counties and Louisiana parishes, and sets out rules for reporting and auditing.
     State entities can apply for Treasury grants for a broad range of restoration activities, including mitigation to fish and wildlife damage, workforce development and job creation.
     Comments on the proposal are due by November 5.

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