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- 8/11/2011 Louisiana’s coastal restoration effort has been built on the assumption that the state can garner substantial federal funds for a comprehensive program, utilizing bipartisan support in Congress. Recent events show that this possibility is at risk, due to Republican fiscal policies and the behavior of some members of the state’s GOP delegation. The Tea Party control of the GOP has made any new large federal appropriations impossible, and even ongoing funding for authorized projects is far less likely than before. 1) The GOP-led House opposed $35.6 million in President Obama’s budget for the Corps of Engineers that would fund coastal restoration in Louisiana. Despite explicit support from the Office of Management and Budget and the White House, Appropriations Committee Chairman Rogers (R-Ky) made it clear that this funding wasn’t considered to have the “most benefit to the American people, while cutting back funding for programs that we simply cannot afford or that are not performing up to snuff.” 1 Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) stated that “House Republicans have forgotten that Louisiana’s coast is integral to America’s domestic oil supply. Wetlands are also our greatest natural form of flood protection and critical to our hurricane protection system. Banning new programs to restore wetlands would be a slap in the face to Louisiana and the entire Gulf Coast.” 2 An amendment by Representative John Tierney (D-MA) that would have restored more of the $35.8 million for Louisiana coastal restoration requested by the White House was defeated, and for the first time, a member of the state’s own delegation – Representative John Fleming (RMinden) - voted against restoration funding. 3 The joint efforts of Representatives Richmond and Scalise (R-Jefferson) pushed through an amendment that restored $1 million of the White House request. 4 2) The state’s efforts to increase revenue sharing from offshore oil and gas drilling has run into opposition from some Democratic members of the House Natural Resources Committee. 5 Senator Landrieu has led the push to move up the date that revenues to the state would increase from 2017 to 2015. But she has encountered opposition in the Senate Energy Committee as well. 6 This situation is a direct result of the extremist policies that the GOP is promoting, especially since the 2010 election – and the embrace of those policies by Louisiana’s Republican delegation members. On the one hand, we have the Tea Party-dominated GOP pushing immediate, large1|Page
scale budget cuts, despite the advice of economists across the board that doing so will worsen and prolong the recession. They created a false crisis over the debt ceiling that is negatively impacting the economy and America’s financial standing in the world, supposedly to reduce the national debt – after they had already voted to increase the debt through extension of the Bush tax cuts and (in the House) the Ryan budget proposal, both of which add trillions to the national debt over the coming decade. 7 Yet Louisiana’s Congressional Republicans continue to call for funding for the state’s needs – as if no one will notice the contradiction. Several of the state’s GOP delegation have also distinguished themselves by mindless opposition to President Obama and his administration, putting their partisan obsession far above their obligation to protect Louisiana’s interests. Congressman Jeff Landry (R-New Iberia) has been one of the worst offenders. Landry gained the wrong kind of notoriety for Louisiana when he gratuitously insulted the Chairs of the President’s Oil Spill Commission when they appeared before a House Committee, despite the fact that both gentlemen had not supported the administration’s 6 month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. 8 Landry attached an amendment to the same bill for which Representatives Richmond and Scalise were attempting to retain the administration’s funding for coastal restoration. But Landry’s amendment aimed to deny funding for salaries of officials installed by the President in recess appointments, despite the fact that Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush made many more appointments of this kind.9 Landry also refused an invitation to attend a White House meeting, insulting the President in the process by repeating GOP myths about the national debt – after he voted to increase it by supporting the Ryan Budget Proposal. Landry's only accomplishment in this instance was to ensure that his coastal Louisiana district was not represented at the meeting. 10 Coupled with all of this has been an all-out assault on environmental protection by the GOP which has been embraced and led by Louisiana’s Republican delegation (Senator Vitter has long pursued a similar agenda.)11 These extremist policies have alienated Democrats who support environmental protection, and ensured that Representative Landry had no credibility when he tries to lecture Committee members on protecting the environment in Louisiana. 12 Coastal restoration in Louisiana is at risk from the converging effects of GOP policies. On the one hand, new appropriations are unlikely after the likely contraction in federal funding being forced by the GOP under the sway of the Tea Party. The anti-government posturing of GOP leaders does not bode well for Louisiana. They have mocked government “investments” as another expression for wasteful spending 13, but coastal restoration in Louisiana is exactly the 2|Page
kind of investment the country needs to make, for all the reasons the state has given for over a decade. In another action with ominous implications for Louisiana, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor responded to the destruction of Joplin, Missouri by a tornado by stating that disaster relief funds would have to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. 14 If this provision had been in place when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (or Gustav and Ike) hit Louisiana, with damages far exceeding the $1 billion appropriated to relieve the community of Joplin, the state's recovery would have been disastrously impeded. Congressman Richmond attacked this mean-spirited myopia, calling it “morally reprehensible and un-American,” and introduced the Humanitarian Aid for Americans Act in Response. 15 Louisiana depends on federal funding for hurricane protection, flood control, and many other vital needs – and restoration of the state's coast. The state concluded long ago that it could not afford the full cost of restoration itself (and that there were compelling national reasons to fund it.) The full cost of restoring the coast to a sustainable condition is unknown. Governor Jindal's staff has stated an estimate of $100 billion.16 Due to the influence of the Tea Party-dominated GOP, federal funding at the level needed to restore Louisiana's coast is now unlikely. There are currently only two other sources of large-scale funding: The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA), the first phase of which divides 37.5 percent of all qualified OCS (federal) revenues, including bonus bids, rentals and production royalty, among the four energy-producing Gulf States (AL, LA, MS, TX). 17 Phase II institutes a $500 million revenue cap starting in 2017. Passage of GOMESA is one of Senator Landrieu's key achievements. Her efforts to move the start of Phase II to 2015 to accelerate restoration funding are running into difficulty, with federal deficits a key issue of contention. 18 The other major source are the Clean Water Act fines and Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) payments resulting from last year's BP Blowout disaster. Senator Landrieu has just introduced a bill to dedicate at least 80% of Clean Water Act penalties to Gulf states for environmental and economic restoration, with support of all Gulf State Senators except Cornyn (R-TX).19 The monies from these sources are expected to run into the billions, but the exact amount and the timing of their availability are unknown and could take a decade or more. BP has made an initial contribution of $1 billion for ecosystem restoration on the Gulf Coast.20 Bullet Points: Large-scale federal funding for coastal restoration in Louisiana is now caught in the budget vise that the extremist GOP has imposed on the government and country. The state's GOP officials (Governor Jindal, Vitter, GOP House members) are being disingenuous by not leveling with the public about this – and the role they have played in this situation.
On the one hand, the state's GOP delegation has joined the Tea Party in pushing for massive immediate and long-term cuts to discretionary spending, at the same time passing bills in the House to strip the EPA and other agencies of the capacity and funding for environmental protection. The Tea Party will not support new large appropriations, and the state has lost credibility with Democrats and Independents committed to protecting the environment. Both factors are impeding funding in appropriations bills, and a larger share of offshore revenues that would be diverted from the Treasury. We believe that the case for national support for Louisiana is strong – for ecosystem, energy, navigation, and other reasons. But even Congressional members who understand this are now faced with huge national and state programs and projects that they cannot fund. Fortunately, the President still supports restoring Louisiana's wetlands and the Gulf Coast, though the GOP/Tea Party members such as Representative Landry are mindlessly opposed to any policies that the White House proposes. There is no easy way out of the box that GOP policies have put the state into. BP and GOMESA funds are the only sources of near-term support. But GOP budget plans and priorities allow for no large-scale federal appropriations going forward.
Times Picayune, “Obama administration objects to bill with no funding for Louisiana projects,” 7/6/11; http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/07/obama_administration_objects_t.html 2 Times Picayune, 7/6/11. 3 Times Picayune, “House defeats amendment to fund ecosystem restoration work in Louisiana,” 7/12/11; http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/07/house_defeats_amendment_to_fun.html 4 Times Picayune, “Rep.s Steve Scalise and Cedric Richmond get House to spring for $1 million to restore coast, 7/16/11. 5 The Advocate, “La., House panel spar over oil revenue,” 7/28/11. 6 Times Picayune, “2 Democratic congressman push to strip states’ share of offshore oil revenue,” 7/28/11; http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/07/two_democratic_congressman_say.html 7 OMB Watch, “Permanently Extending Bush Tax cuts to Cost $5 Trillion,” 11/1/10; http://www.ombwatch.org/node/11353 FactCheck.org, “Ryan’s Budget Spin,” 5/6/11; http://www.factcheck.org/2011/05/ryans4|Page
budget-spin/ Los Angeles Times, “Do House Republicans realize they just endorsed a higher debt limit?”, 4/15/11; http://opinion.latimes.com/opinionla/2011/04/do-house-republicans-realizethey-just-endorsed-a-higher-debt-limit.html 8 Times Picayune, “Oil Spill Commission Leaders Blistered by Republicans at Congressional Hearings,” 1/26/11; http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oilspill/index.ssf/2011/01/republicans_in_congress_bliste.html 9 Times Picayune, 7/16/11. 10 The Hill, “GOP Lawmaker rejects White House trip, 'lecture' from Obama,” 6/1/11; http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/164159-gop-lawmaker-rejects-white-housetrip-says-he-wont-be-lectured-to-by-obama 11 Washington Post, “Legislative riders target environmental protections,” 7/28/11; http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/legislative-riders-target-environmentalprotections/2011/07/28/gIQAfL2rfI_story.html; New York Times, “Republicans Seek Big Cuts in Environmental Rules,” 1/27/11, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/28/science/earth/28enviro.html?_r=1&emc=eta1 12 Times Picayune, 7/28/11. 13 Think Progress, “Republicans Oppose Government Investments in American Economy,” 1/24/11; http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/01/24/140554/republicans-oppose-investment/; Center for American Progress, “Disinvesting in America: The House Republican Budget Plan in Action,” 4/14/11; http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/04/disinvesting_america.html 14 Think Progress, “Cantor Says Congress Won't Pay for Missouri Disaster Relief Unless Spending is Cut Elsewhere,” 5/24/11; http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/05/24/169075/cantor-disaster-relief/ 15 Congressman Richmond, “Don't Politicize Disaster Relief Funding,” 7/7/11; http://richmond.house.gov/press-release/richmond-don%E2%80%99t-politicize-disaster-relieffunding 16 Cabinet Report to the Commission on Streamlining Government, p. 1, 8/18/09; http://senate.legis.state.la.us/streamline/presentations/CabinetReports/CDRSC-1.pdf 17 BOEMRE, Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, http://www.boemre.gov/offshore/GOMESARevenueSharing.htm 18 Times Picayune, “Sen. Mary Landrieu's oil revenue sharing amendment denied a vote by Senate Energy Committee,” 7/22/11; http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/07/sen_mary_landrieus_oil_revenue.html 19 Senator Mary Landrieu, “Landrieu, Shelby Lead Bipartisan Introduction of Bill to Restore Gulf Coast,” 7/21/11; http://landrieu.senate.gov/mediacenter/pressreleases/07-21-20111.cfm 20 NOAA, “Trustees Announce $1 billion for Restoration Projects in Gulf of Mexico,” http://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov/2011/04/trustees-announce-1-billion-for-gulf-coastrestoration-projects/ 5|Page
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