Canadian Underwriter

Public comment begins on $627 million in environmental restoration projects in Gulf of Mexico funded by BP

December 13, 2013   by Canadian Underwriter

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The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced it is taking comments from the public on proposed US$627 million plan, to be funded by BP Exploration and Production Inc., towards 44 restoration projects to address losses caused in 2010 by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

On April 20, 2010, there was an explosion on the mobile offshore oil drilling unit Deepwater Horizon, in the Gulf of Mexico, which caused the release of nearly five million barrels of oil into the sea.

According to a file posted on BP’s website, the company has paid, as of Nov. 30, US$10.99 billion to individuals and businesses, as well as US$1.46 billion to states and U.S. federal government departments.

The U.S. Department of Justice had announced in 2012 that BP Exploration and Production agreed to plead guilty to felony manslaughter, and other crimes, and to pay a US$4 billion in criminal fines and penalties, “for its conduct leading” to the tragedy. BP had been charged with 11 counts of felony manslaughter, one count of felony obstruction of Congress, and violations of the Clean Water and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts.

The company is required to provide US$1 billion toward restoration projects, to be handled by several trustees, including the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s office. Other trustees include the NOAA, the U.S. Department of the Interior and government agencies from five states.

On Dec. 6, 2013, NOAA announced the release of a restoration plan by the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees.

“The projects included in the plan, The Draft Programmatic and Phase III Early Restoration Plan and Draft Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, would restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses, oysters, and lost recreation,” NOAA stated in a press release.  “Under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process, the Trustees have proposed projects that seek to address both natural resource and recreational losses caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

A 60-day public comment period ends Feb. 4, 2014.

“During the comment period, the trustees will hold 10 public meetings across the Gulf states,” NOAA stated. “Early restoration provides an opportunity to implement restoration projects agreed upon by the trustees and BP prior to the completion of the full natural resource damage assessment and restoration plan. BP and other responsible parties are obligated to compensate the public for the full scope of the natural resource injury caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including the cost of assessing such injury and planning for restoration.”

NOAA would take the lead role in executing four of the 44 proposed projects.

“Under the draft plan, NOAA would partner with Louisiana and the Department of the Interior to fund and execute restoration of beach, dune and back-barrier marsh habitat on Chenier Ronquille, a barrier island off the coast of Louisiana. Chenier Ronquille is one of four barrier islands proposed for restoration as part of the Louisiana Outer Coast Restoration Project.”

The total cost of that plan is estimated at US$318 million.

The restoration plan also includes a project in Mississippi, in which NOAA would work with the state “to improve” nearly six miles (10 km) of shorelines. The cost is estimated at US$50 million.

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