/PRNewswire/ -- Five conservation groups praised the U.S. House of Representatives for passing a bill July 30 that includes an amendment authored by Congressman Charlie Melancon (D-La.) that would provide up to $1.2 billion in funding for Gulf Coast restoration projects. The amendment provides funding for a "Gulf Coast Restoration Program" in Title V of the Consolidated Land, Energy and Aquatic Resources Act (CLEAR Act/H.R. 3534). The amendment is fully paid for by a portion of BP's penalties for violating the Clean Water Act (CWA), so it doesn't increase the deficit.
"The BP oil spill has imperiled the Gulf Coast and its impacts will be felt for years to come by the communities, wildlife, and the environment," said a joint statement by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Audubon Society, and National Wildlife Federation. "Much of the oil in the marshes simply can't be cleaned up. Congressman Melancon's amendment recognizes that the long term solution to cleaning the marshes is to bring self-sustaining health back to this ecosystem through long-term investments in restoration. We thank Louisiana Congressmen Melancon and Steve Scalise (R-La.) for working together to ensure bipartisan support for this amendment, and we're grateful to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) and the House leadership for their help to pass the amendment."
HR 3534 creates a restoration task force, comprising the five Gulf Coast governors and representatives of relevant federal agencies. Nine months after the legislation's enactment into law, the task force must submit a detailed Gulf of Mexico Restoration plan. Upon completion, the plan will be submitted to Congress, which will then fund listed projects. The funded projects will be large-scale restoration projects, endorsed by the Gulf Coast governors and federal agency heads.
"These projects will benefit all regions of the Gulf Coast and provide a restoration framework that will restore water quality, protect people, wildlife and reintroduce resilience into the coastal wetlands in the face of the oil spill," the groups concluded. "Nearly five years ago, our nation learned during Hurricane Katrina the important role Gulf Coast wetlands play in protecting people and communities from devastating storms. Now, in the face of the BP spill, America has come to understand the importance of a healthy Gulf ecosystem to wildlife, the economy, and the culture of the region."
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