09 June 2017

No Time to Cut Hurricane Protection Funding

The America's WETLAND Foundation (AWF) warns that the advent of the Atlantic Hurricane season is the wrong time for the Trump administration to announce eliminating funding for coastal restoration and protection projects.

President Trump's budget revokes the agreement that gives coastal offshore energy producing states a share of revenues received by the Federal government through royalties from Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas leases. In Louisiana, monies from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) are a crucial piece of the funding puzzle for the state's coastal master plan.

"For almost 20 years, coastal state Congressional Members worked to seek recognition of the role their states play in ensuring a secure U.S. energy future," said AWF's managing director Val Marmillion. "As projections of a dangerous hurricane season are announced, projects to protect communities from the ravages of storms are vulnerable to these unwise budget decisions. This president took office vowing to drain the swamp, but with this action, he will kill off the nation's most important swamp, America's Wetland."

The comments came on the heels of newly released projections from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center that cites a 45% chance of an above-normal season. Forecasters predict a 70% likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms, including two to four major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher.)

"The President said he would shore up America's infrastructure and nowhere is that more important than in coastal areas critical to U.S. navigation routes, pipeline networks and working wetlands, where energy and seafood production fuel and feed the nation," Sidney Coffee, AWF senior advisor, said. "The GOMESA dollars have been constitutionally dedicated in Louisiana to fund coastal restoration and protection and are crucial to the state's ability to carry out its coastal master plan, the most comprehensive of its kind in the U.S."

It is Congress who must now approve the budget and provisions for funding of GOMESA, which was the result of a bi-partisan vote and strong support from energy and navigation industries and NGOs.

"We are pleased that the Louisiana and Gulf Congressional delegations hold significant strength in Congress - House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, as an advocate and Representative Garrett Graves, as former chair of Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority whose Congressional District faces unparalleled destruction from coastal erosion, storm events and sea level rise," Marmillion said. "It is likely that President Trump may be unaware of the impact that such a move will have on critical energy, environmental and U.S. strategic assets and we are certain they will make it right with the new President."