Diverse Gulf Coast Interests Back Federal Legislation to Accelerate Offshore Revenue Sharing, Expedite Grants to States

Jun 09, 2010, 12:44 ET from America's WETLAND Foundation

NEW ORLEANS, June 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The America's Energy Coast group is calling for Congress to accelerate immediately the sharing of offshore oil and gas revenues with producing states along the U.S. Gulf Coast and to amend a bill to expedite long-delayed grants to those states from the Coastal Impact Assistance program (CIAP).

The group representing conservation, energy, and other interests throughout the four-state region of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, released a resolution supporting Congressional efforts to help impacted states speed up coastal restoration efforts along already deteriorating marshes and coastal landscapes, now exacerbated by the ongoing oil flow from the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

The America's Energy Coast initiative calls for approval of:

---An amendment expediting distribution of the remaining 80% of the $1 billion Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) intended to mitigate the impacts of offshore energy activity in the America's Energy Coast states. The funds were supposed to be distributed to the states by 2010 but the U.S. Minerals Management Service has disbursed only 20%.

--The 2005 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) that will share offshore oil and gas revenues with the Gulf coastal producing states will not fully go into effect until the year 2017.  Legislation to accelerate that revenue sharing for coastal restoration would help address an already deteriorating ecosystem, especially in light of the ongoing oil leak from the Deepwater Horizon rig that is further impacting sensitive marshes, barrier islands and beaches.

R. King Milling, chair of the America's WETLAND Foundation that created the America's Energy Coast initiative, noted the coastal marshes were rapidly eroding long before the spill. "We have an ecosystem that is in a state of continual deterioration," Milling said.

Coastal land loss began after the U.S. leveed the Mississippi River in the early 1930s, funneling fresh water and sediment off the Outer Continental Shelf, robbing the naturally subsiding wetlands of their necessary nutrients. The result has been land loss at the fastest rate on the planet - the equivalent of a football field every 50 minutes.

"This problem is something our country has to take note of," Milling said.

Valsin A. Marmillion, AWF managing director, said the Gulf Coast wetlands "are on life support. Anything that happens to them is very threatening."

Sidney Coffee, AWF policy advisor said critical habitat is being lost. "Ducks, Geese and migratory songbirds depend on this habitat as they make their way to backyards all over the U.S. This is the nursery ground for most of the Gulf's marine life. It is a globally significant ecological treasure, more important than any of our differences."

"If this vulnerable system is lost, the cost to this nation is going to be staggering," Milling said. "It will impact navigation, the oil and gas industry, the environment and more than two-million people. These are economic realities we must all face as a nation."

The America's WETLAND Foundation, in conjunction with the LSU Ag Center and AmeriCorps, asks supporters of restoration to make a $10 donation by texting "isupport wetlands" to 20222. All proceeds will go to buying marsh grasses for planting by wetland restoration teams.

America's WETLAND Foundation is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that has acted as a neutral arbiter for coastal interests since its inception in 2002, elevating issues facing the Gulf Coast, specifically those of coastal land loss, to regional and national attention. Through its America's Energy Coast initiative, the Foundation has brought together a diverse group of major U.S.-based businesses and industries, national environmental organizations, renowned scientists and researchers, and coastal interests from across the four energy-producing states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

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Valsin A. Marmillion

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SOURCE America's WETLAND Foundation