Groups Seek Public Input in BP Gulf Restoration Plans

New Orleans, LA – Governments throughout the Gulf Coast are submitted projects for the $1 billion BP is offering for early restoration projects. It's part of the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process that has trustees decide the best ways to repair the resources. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration works with trustees and BP to determine how the money should be spent. But the Gulf Future Coalition is complaining that the process isn't transparent. Sierra Club Gulf Coast Campaign Director Jill Mastrototaro says the group's report called "Sunshine on the Gulf" is being released near the start of the process to insure public input.
"Recognizing that this is the largest undertaking in our nation s history, recognizing that this is the largest environmental disaster that our country has faced, it's the public who needs to be at the decision-making table along with the state and federal and other decision makers to make this region whole again."
Negotiations are conducted behind closed doors as BP argues how much monetary credit it can get for the projects it funds to offset the fines it will receive. Gulf Restoration Network Executive Director Cynthia Sarthou says the public needs to know before negotiations begin how the projects are selected.
"We are not talking about letting the public in to what we understand are clearly confidential negotiations of monies and offsets. But before they submit, before they go into negotiations, you and I both know the states are going to have a list of projects that they say are their priorities. Louisiana is the only state that has even published a set of priorities."
The report outlining some of the projects submitted so far says few address workforce training and local hiring. A trustee for Florida says the panel wants to release the first set of approved projects by the end of the year.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming