BP Exploration & Production, Inc. (BP) said Thursday it has signed an agreement with federal and state agencies that will accelerate work starting this year to restore areas of the Gulf of Mexico that were affected by the Deepwater Horizon accident.
The agreement commits up to $1 billion to projects that will restore injured natural resources in the Gulf at the earliest opportunity. It allows projects important to the Gulf’s recovery to begin now, as early restoration projects, rather than waiting for the Trustees to complete all of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) studies that are underway. The projects will undergo public review before they are funded, and priority will be assigned to projects aimed at improving areas that offer the greatest benefits to wildlife, habitat, and recreational use.
“BP believes early restoration will result in identified improvements to wildlife, habitat and related recreational uses in the Gulf, and our voluntary commitment to that process is the best way to get restoration projects moving as soon as possible,” said Lamar McKay, chairman and president, BP America Inc. “Our voluntary agreement to accelerate restoration projects builds upon the cooperative approach BP has taken toward working with Gulf communities and regulators since the accident, and in assessing the potential injury to natural resources. We hope to work in partnership with the Trustee Council to address injured resources in the Gulf as soon as possible. We believe the early restoration projects to be funded through this agreement represent the best way forward in restoring the Gulf.”
BP’s commitment to early restoration is not required by the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) at this stage of the NRD process, and will have the effect of speeding up restoration work that otherwise likely would be deferred for several years, while the NRD assessment continues.
OPA directs the federal and state Trustees to study potential injuries, complete a report that identifies the injuries resulting from the incident, and develop restoration plans to address the identified injuries. The process typically takes years to complete. Shortly after the incident, BP began working with federal and state agencies to collect data needed to assess damages to natural resources, through the NRDA process. Over 100 cooperative studies are underway to evaluate the potential for injury to all types of wildlife and habitat in the Gulf of Mexico.
Under the expedited restoration framework made possible by this agreement, and to allow restoration to begin as quickly as possible, the Trustees will use the study data they have collected to date to identify injuries that are evident now and propose plans to restore those resources at the earliest opportunity, focusing on projects that can start in 2011 and 2012. According to the agreement, “the Parties intend to work cooperatively to seek to achieve significant, meaningful restoration of natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico.”
For reference, the NRDA trustees who are party to the agreement include representatives from all five states. The parties include:
- Alabama (Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Geological Survey of Alabama);
- Florida (Florida Department of Environmental Protection);
- Louisiana (Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, LouisianaDepartment of Environmental Quality, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources);
- Mississippi (Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality);
- Texas (Texas General Land Office, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality);
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”);
- The Department of the Interior (“DOI”).