Gulf region coalition pushes for economic restoration provided by RESTORE Act

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As Congress prepares to vote on the RESTORE Act, more than 100 leaders of cities, municipalities, economic development organizations, and chambers of commerce throughout the Gulf region have sent a joint letter to Senate and House leaders urging them to consider the deep economic benefit and job creation potential the region would have if the RESTORE Act were made law. If passed, the RESTORE Act would direct the majority of penalties paid by those responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill back to Gulf communities.

“This legislation is vital to our communities’ efforts to bounce back from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” the letter said. “The economic and ecological restoration called for under the RESTORE Act will create needed private sector jobs while reclaiming vital natural and commercial assets that are unique to the Gulf Coast.”

Earlier this year, the House and Senate both passed versions of the RESTORE Act as part of their Transportation Bills. The legislation dedicates 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines from BP, and the other parties responsible for the Gulf oil spill, to restoring the Gulf Coast. The legislation will ensure money paid to the federal government in penalties isused to rebuild the economies of Gulf Coast communities that were directly impacted by the spill. Without this directive, billions of dollars in expected fines could go toward unrelated federal spending. The bills are now in conference awaiting final action from Congress in order to send them to the President’s desk to become law.

“The long-term viability of the Gulf is dependent upon preserving its coast. The economy and security of the nation is significantly dependent upon the Gulf,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “With this interdependence in mind, passing the RESTORE Act is both a regional and national imperative.”

Signatories include the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and the West Galveston Island Property Owners Association in Texas,among others. Together, they are urging Congress to focus on the legislation’s short- and long-term impact on the fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, and outdoor spaces that are fundamental to the Gulf Coast economy and play a critical role in the viability of our national economy.

According to a Duke University study released in December 2011, the RESTORE Act could create jobs that would benefit at least 140 businesses across the country with nearly 400 employee locations in 37 states. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Gulf produces roughly 40 percent of the seafood in the contiguous 48 states, and the region is also home to 10 of the country’s 15 largest ports.

“The devastating effect of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster continues to have a long-term impact on businesses and the environment along the Gulf Coast,” said Win Hallett, president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. “We strongly urge swift passage of the RESTORE Act to make ‘whole’ cities, counties, businesses, individuals, and ecosystems across the Gulf of Mexico.”

“The growth and health of the Gulf Coast region from Texas, through Houston, to Florida is critical to the wellbeing of the U.S. economy,” said Micah Hirschfield, vice president of communications at the Greater Houston Partnership, the Houston business community’s primary advocate. “For that reason, GHP urges support and approval of the RESTORE Act, which helps our region develop and fittingly appropriates the funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the communities that need it.”

“This commitment to reinvest in the Mississippi Gulf Coast is critically important as the businesses move toward a full recovery,” said Mike Cashion, executive director of the Mississippi Hospitality & Restaurant Association. “The Gulf Coast is a tourism destination with a wonderful story to tell. Restoration of the Gulf Coast, and the tourism industry will mean more jobs and an across-the-board positive economic impact.”

“In Panama City Beach, our economy depends on beautiful natural resources that were injured in the BP oil disaster, including our alluring beaches and fresh Gulf seafood, which drive tourism to our restaurants, resorts, and businesses,” said Beth Oltman, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce. “Passage of the RESTORE Act will not only put the Gulf Coast on the path to revitalize our precious natural resources but also to mend our economy.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.