New Orleans (WGNO) – During the next 15 years, BP will pay out a record-breaking $18.7 billion dollars to the five Gulf States: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
It’s unprecedented, but is it enough?
Bethany Carl Kraft, the Director of the Gulf Restoration Program at Ocean Conservancy, says her initial reaction was excitement that a settlement is finally in place.
“You know, I think for all of us in the Gulf, we would have liked to see maximum penalties applied. That didn’t happen, but that said, $18.7 billion for a settlement is a substantial amount of money—and if put to good use and spent wisely, this is a game changer for the Gulf of Mexico.”
Plaquemines Parish President Amos Cormier says he’s happy for the State of Louisiana, but the numbers don’t add up to a fair compensation package for his parish and its 44,0000 government-owned acres.
“We’re susceptible to mineral losses. Some of those acres have disappeared, so that’s the problem,” he said in reaction to Thursday’s announcement.
Scott Eustis, Wetlands Specialist at the Gulf Restoration Network, understands Cormier’s concern, in light of the damage done.
“A lot of that oil remains in Plaquemines Parish marshes today. It’s unrecoverable. We’ll see oil bubbling up during the summer months for decades to come,” Eustis says.
But with an eye on the clock and the five years that have passed since the disaster, Eustis and other environmentalists say they are relieved by the action taken.
“On the Gulf Coast we’ve seen the Exxon Valdez decision drag on for years to the benefit of no one, so we’re very happy that our leadership on the Gulf Coast as made the decision to take what they can now and move forward with ecological restoration as soon as possible, because we urgently need it—and we need every single one of those dollars to go to restoration,” says Eustis.
Fifty billion dollars is what conservation experts say is needed to truly renew the Louisiana Coast, not just from the oil spill damage, but in terms of complete restoration. The State of Louisiana will get $6.8 billion from the BP settlement.
Some environmentalists are worried that the money may not get to where it’s needed the most.
“We can’t waste time building baseball fields, hotels. All of this money should go toward the build out of our wetlands infrastructure and our coastal restoration infrastructure,” says Eustis.
Now the game plan for those crusading for the coast is accountability.
“We can’t let down our guard. It seems like this is the closing of a chapter and we’ve been waiting five years, but truly restoration is just now beginning,” says Kraft.