On Thursday, September 15, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Geological Survey of Alabama held a public meeting to “demystify” the various sources of restoration funding coming to Alabama as a result of the BP oil disaster.
A total of $1.38 billion is guaranteed for Alabama through four different “buckets” of funding. (This does not include the $1 billion in economic settlement funds the legislature recently allocated.) The following is a breakdown of the funding streams and the portion Alabama will receive.
Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) = $296 million
While we can compete for additional funding through NRDA, Alabama is guaranteed a total of $296 million. NRDA fines are levied through the Oil Pollution Act and are meant to address damages to natural resources, including the public’s loss of use during the injury.
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) = $356 million
NFWF funding comes from the Clean Water Act criminal penalties levied against BP and Transocean. This funding comes in faster than other funding sources; the final payment of NFWF funds will be deposited into the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund in 2018. NFWF money funds projects that benefit natural resources harmed by the oil disaster.
RESTORE Act funding = $725 million for Alabama
Through the RESTORE Act, 80% of the penalties paid by responsible parties must come to the Gulf states for restoration. There are two sources of funds through the RESTORE Act, one of which is determined by the Federal Council, and the other through the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council, or state council. The funding guaranteed to Alabama comes through the state council and can fund projects that restore our economy and ecosystem. Additional funding for Alabama can be sought through the federal council’s funding process.
To sign up for coastal restoration email updates from the state of Alabama, visit AlabamaCoastalRestoration.org. Conservation Alabama will continue to update our members on opportunities for public comments and public meetings and as funding decisions are made.
Upcoming Public Meetings
The Alabama State House and Senate adjourned sine die Wednesday evening, bringing a contentious special session to a close. Gov. Bentley called for the session in late July, saying legislators needed to return to Montgomery in August to discuss a potential lottery and find a solution to the state’s $85 million Medicaid shortfall.
The lottery was the legislature’s primary focus in the beginning of the special session; any bill calling for a lottery would have gone before the voters as a constitutional amendment. The deadline for constitutional amendments to be added to the ballot was just one of many disagreements that arose between legislators and state officials during this debate. After arguments over how potential earnings from a lottery would be spent and what constituted gaming, the lottery bill ultimately died as a result of concerns in the Senate that it would negatively impact dog tracks.
With the lottery off the table as a potential revenue stream for Medicaid and the General Fund, legislators turned to the settlement paid to the state as a result of the 2010 BP oil spill. This portion of the settlement is meant to deal with the economic damage that occurred in the wake of the disaster; earlier payments were delineated for environmental restoration. At various points during debate it seemed that the legislature would adjourn without a solution, but on Wednesday a compromise was passed that provides a total of $120 million for Medicaid in 2017 and 2018, repays $400 million of the state’s debt, and allocates $120 million to the two coastal counties for road projects.
The legislature will return for the 2017 legislative session on February 7.
For more than a year, you’ve heard from Conservation Alabama, our members, and our partners about the importance of our state parks. You’ve written your state representative, state senator, and the governor asking them to protect our parks. And you celebrated with us on April 20 when the House passed Senate Bill 260, guaranteeing that voters will have the chance to vote YES for our parks in November.
So what now?
Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. As temperatures climb and we head into the summer it may seem hard to believe, but before you know it, it will be time to go to the polls in support of our state parks. The constitutional amendment that was called for by SB 260 will be on the ballot, and we encourage you to vote YES so that the funding earned by and allocated to state parks is spent only on parks.
Conservation Alabama will be traveling across the state this summer sharing information about our parks and the enormous value they contribute, not only to our ecosystem, but also to our economy. We’ll be meeting with people that love our state parks, including birders, cyclists, and hikers, as well as the towns that rely on park visitors for their economic health. Our goal is the same as it was in 2015 when attacks on our parks first started: to make sure each Alabamian knows how important it is to protect our parks.
Would you like us to speak to your group or community? Let us know!