Settlement Agreement in Principle
On July 2, 2015, BP Plc announced an agreement in principle to settle the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. On October 5, 2015 the Department of Justice released the proposed Consent Decree intended to formalize the agreement. Public comment closed on December 4, 2015. The Consent Decree was finalized. More information is available here.
Connect with these links to follow the progress of oil spill related entities and activities.
- Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI)
- National Academies of Science’ (NAS) Gulf Research Program
- Natural Damage Resource Assessment (NRDA)
- RESTORE Act and associated programs
- National American Wetlands Conservation Act Fund (NAWCA)
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund
- NOAA RESTORE ACT Science Program
The science and restoration programs working in the Gulf of Mexico understand the need for stakeholders to remain informed of future funding opportunities in the region. They have developed a three-year calendar consolidating planned funding opportunities. Get a copy of the calendar.
Deepwater Horizon Project Tracker
The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Project Tracker is a centralized directory of projects funded as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It is the most comprehensive picture of the location, type, cost, funding sources, and scope of Gulf of Mexico oil spill-related recovery, restoration, and research projects. Each project snapshot includes a brief project description, a point of contact, and a link to access detailed project information. There are over 500 projects in in the Tracker.
Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative
The Gulf of Mexico Alliance manages the operational and non-scientific aspects associated with Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), which includes proposal planning and preparation, administer research grants, implement research database, budget and financial reporting, website management, and program communications and outreach. GoMRI is in its 7th year of operation and the 2017 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference is February 6-9 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Natural Resource Damage Assessment
State and Federal Trustees have completed a restoration scoping process for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The process allowed the NRDA Trustees to take a comprehensive look at the types of restoration required to offset potential impacts from the spill on habitat, fish, wildlife and human use of those resources. In October 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice and the five U.S. Gulf States reached a settlement agreement with BP to resolve civil claims over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (PDARP) and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) is the restoration plan guiding the Trustees.
The Co-Trustees include five Federal agencies (Department of Commerce – NOAA, Department of the Interior, Department of Defense, EPA and Department of Agriculture) and the five Gulf States (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas). With the restoration plan finalized, restoration areas have been established. Each restoration area has a Trustee Implementation Group (TIG) that comprises state agency and federal agency representatives.
Phases I, II, III, IV and V of Early Restoration have funded projects. A full review of these projects and all other NRDA related information can be found on NOAA’s Gulf Spill Restoration website. A story map summarizes current projects. General public NRDA explanations are available through the Environmental Law Institute.
In July 2012, the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) was passed into law. The Act establishes a new Trust Fund in the Treasury of the United States, known as the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. It will receive 80% of the civil penalties paid after July 6, 2012, under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Under the Act, amounts in the Trust Fund will be available for programs, projects, and activities that restore and protect the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast region.
The much anticipated U.S. Treasury Department rules were released August 13, 2014. On December 14, 2015, the Final Rule was published in the Federal Register. It became effective February 12, 2016. It allows for Gulf Coast states and municipalities to receive funding for environmental restoration and economic development projects. The Final Rule outlines grant programs for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas that were established by the Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States (RESTORE) Act.
Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council: Section 1603 of the RESTORE Act established the Council, which is comprised of the Governors of the five Gulf Coast States and Cabinet-level officials from six federal agencies. The Council receives 30% of the RESTORE Act Trust Funds. The final comprehensive plan, “Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem & Economy” addresses actions needed for the Gulf region. Fact sheets and additional information are available on RestoreTheGulf.gov. On December 9, 2015,the Council voted on the Initial Funded Priorities List. At the same meeting, the regulation for the Spill Impact Component was approved. This regulation establishes a formula to allocate funds among the Gulf States.
In September 2016, the Council released a Draft Comprehensive Plan Update. The updates address recent developments in Gulf restoration such as the resolution of civil claims against BP for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a source of future funding for the Council’s projects. They also captures important public input and lessons learned from the process of developing and approving its initial Funded Priorities List (FPL), the first slate of restoration activities to be funded through the RESTORE Act, and positions the Council to make the most effective use of future funds as they become available beginning in 2017. The update was approved on December 16, 2016.
Gulf States: In addition to being members of the Restoration Council, the five Gulf States will receive individual portions of the RESTORE Act Trust Funds. Section 1601 of the RESTORE Act evenly divides 35% of the Trust Funds among the five Gulf States, while Section 1602 distributes 30% of the Trust Funds to the Gulf States based on a damage and population formula. Each state is approaching comprehensive restoration and recovery efforts in a different manner.
Alabama:The Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council (AGCRC) is a 10-member council comprised of state and local officials, created with the passage of the RESTORE Act in 2012. The AGCRC adopted a Strategy Map and tapped ADCNR to serve as administrator. For additional information on the AGCRC, visit restorealabama.org. To learn about other state-specific restoration activities, including NRDA, NFWF and AGCRC, visit www.alabamacoastalrestoration.org. The AGCRC approved the Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium (Dauphin Island Sea Lab) as the State’s Center of Excellence on December 4, 2015. The center will be called the Alabama Center of Excellence or ACE.
Mississippi: The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) developed GoCoast 2020 with vast stakeholder input. GoCoast 2020 provides recommendations for restoration initiatives to make Mississippi whole. MDEQ created a state-of-the-art online program for submission of project ideas for consideration across all funding sources, including RESTORE, NRDA, and NFWF. A Project Map web site is available to view ideas submitted to date. The Mississippi Based RESTORE Act Center of Excellence (MBRACE) was chosen as the Mississippi Center of Excellence. Visit Making Mississippi Whole (www.restore.ms) to learn more.
Florida: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the lead agency for responding to impacts and the resulting restoration process. The FDEP maintains a website complete with resources, links, and newsletters, including an overview of Florida’s response to the oil spill. Each impacted county will engage directly with their communities through the Gulf Consortium and Florida Association of Counties. Some counties have dedicated web pages or sites – find yours. The Consortium has meetings planned throughout the year. An online map tool is available to search all Florida proposed projects. The Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) is responsible for – FLRACEP, the Florida RESTORE Act Centers of Excellence Program. The Center conducted two research award grant periods, one each for 2015 and 2016.
Louisiana: Restoration in Louisiana will be conducted according to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s Coastal Master Plan. It is based on a two year analysis involving some of the state’s best scientists as well as national and international specialists. The state used this analysis to select 109 high performing projects that could deliver measurable benefits to our communities and coastal ecosystem over the coming decades. The state is represented on the RESTORE Council by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA). Information on Louisiana’s restoration efforts can be found by visiting CPRA’s site. The LA Center of Excellence is The Water Institute of the Gulf. The Center closed their first grant opportunity in December 2016. A Research Strategy is being finalized.
Texas: Restore the Texas Coast is the Texas website source of information for coastal restoration funding from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Two Consortia were selected to establish Center of Excellence in Texas and are led by the University of Houston: Subsea Systems Institute; and Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi: Texas OneGulf. Subsea Systems Institute opened their first grant opportunity in January 2017.
NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program: Under Section 1604 of the RESTORE Act, 2.5% of the Clean Water Act fines is dedicated to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science, Observations, Monitoring and Technology Program (a.k.a.: NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program). Comprehensive information related to this program, including the science plan, funding opportunities, announcements, and other information can be found on the NOAA RESTORE Science Program website. A Science Program Framework is available that communicates NOAA’s intent, purpose and rationale for how it will execute the Program according to its responsibilities under the RESTORE Act. Research awards will be announced in 2017. A future funding opportunities calendar is available here.
Research Centers of Excellence: Under Section 1605 of the RESTORE Act, 2.5% of the Clean Water Act fines levied for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are contributed to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, and dedicated to Research Centers of Excellence in each of the five Gulf States. All states have determined their centers.
National Academy of Sciences’ Gulf Research Program
As part of the legal settlements with companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the National Academy of Sciences established a 30-year research program focused on the human health, environmental protection, and oil system safety in the Gulf of Mexico. An appointed Advisory Group released, “Gulf Research Program: A Strategic Vision.” Twelve exploratory grants were awarded in September 2015. On December 10, 2015, the Gulf Research Program announced $4.4 million in Data Synthesis Grants to nine recipients. In December 2016, NAS announced the awarding $2.1 million for data synthesis. Additional funding opportunities are planned regularly. Information about the NAS Gulf Research Program can be found on the program site.
As part of the criminal plea agreements with companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) established the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund for projects benefiting the natural resources of the Gulf Coast that were impacted by the spill. NFWF works in conjunction with the Gulf States to identify projects in the states that will remedy harm and eliminate or reduce future harm to natural resources. On November 15, 2016, NFWF announced $370 of new restoration projects in its fourth round of grants. This will fund 24 new projects in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Prior to these awards, more than $100 million from the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund supports 22 projects in the four states and Texas. For more information go to NFWF’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund.
As part of the criminal plea agreement involving the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the National American Wetlands Conservation Act Fund will receive $100,000,000 for the purpose of wetlands restoration and conservation benefiting migratory bird species and other wildlife affected by the oil spill. More information can be found at the NAWCA’s Gulf Restoration site. You can also read about NAWCA through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service here.