Escambia RESTORE Act Workshop Reveals Severe Cut in Local Funding
The Escambia RESTORE Act Community Outreach Workshop held at the Escambia County Central Office Complex on July 13th revealed severe cutbacks to the local funding under the Equal Share State Allocations component as specified in the settlement. The settlement comes just days after the Supreme Court declined a BP and Anadarko Petroleum appeal which left untouched Judge Barbier’s earlier decision imposing liability on these two corporate entities under the government’s Clean Water Act (“CWA”) and includes claims by more than 400 local governments.
The workshop was designed to assist potential applicants in understanding the guidelines to apply for RESTORE Act funding. The information presented in a printed package of materials included the project selection criteria, a draft application form, an example of a project budget proposal, directions to navigate through the project application proposal and a list of project facilitators in each category of funding, such as economic, environment, and infrastructure. The staff of Dewberry the consulting firm hired by Escambia County walked the workshop attendee through the process of filling out a project application.
The RESTORE Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama to resolve CWA violations. Previous projections focused on settlement amounts from ten (10) billion to twenty (20) billion with Escambia County receiving anywhere from $110,000,000 to $190,000,000. With the new settlement amount at $5.5 billion to the five (5) Gulf States payable over 15 years, the payment to Escambia County is projected for the amount of $58,000,000. This level of funding is far below the expectations of the Escambia County RESTORE Act Advisory Committee, county officials, and the local public.
However, the State of Florida will receive a total of at least $3.252 billion from this settlement. The state will receive $2 billion for economic damages, natural resource damages will receive $680 million (not including the $1 billion already committed by BP for early restoration projects) to resolve the state’s natural resource damage claims; and for the RESTORE Act, at least $572 million of the total $5.5 billion to resolve CWA civil penalties pursuant to the RESTORE Act.
It should be noted that these projected amounts are based on an agreement in principle. These amounts will not become final until after completion of settlement agreements and court approval of the Consent Decree.