Yesterday saw two significant bits of news come out of the Louisiana Gulf Coast. First, oil company BP announced that, almost four years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it was ending active cleanup of the Louisiana coast.
Second, three member of Louisiana’s congressional delegation sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew asking that the Treasury Department pick up the pace on publishing the final rules required to implement the RESTORE Act and get funds flowing to the Gulf Coast.
Their concern is well-founded. Last fall, Treasury published draft RESTORE Act regulations, which were widely critiqued both by interest groups and state and local governments. As a result, they are having to substantially revise their first draft — but it seems to be taking a very long time.
The three Louisianans — Senator David Vitter and Representatives Steve Scalise and Bill Cassidy — are right to prod Treasury to finish up final rulemaking and keep lawmakers informed about when to expect more information. Louisiana knows exactly what they’re going to do with RESTORE Act funds when they start coming in, but they can’t start implementing until Treasury publishes final regs.
Some of the other Gulf Coast states, meanwhile, are relying on the first tranche of RESTORE Act funding to implement planning processes for the future. This first round of funds comes from the Transocean settlement, and it pales in comparison to what is likely to come from a BP settlement or judgement later this year or in 2015. Other state and local governments need resources now to plan for what happens when the BP funds become available — lest it turn into a slush fund for legislative raids.
The ball is in Treasury’s court right now — and the sooner they get to publishing final regs, the sooner Louisiana can get to work on its ambitious and necessary coastal project.