Washington, D.C. – More than four years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, today addressed challenges that remain regarding the progress and implementation of restoration efforts at the federal level.
During today’s hearing, Rubio highlighted how the federal government’s failure to meet deadlines for the RESTORE Act has impeded Florida’s ability to plan and implement restoration projects.
A video of Rubio’s full remarks, as well as his questioning of witnesses, is available here.
Rubio’s opening statement is available below:
“Today, we are holding a very timely hearing on the progress and challenges of implementing the RESTORE Act. I have significant concerns about progress being made to date, particularly at the federal level. I am optimistic that, once a settlement is reached under the Clean Water Act, our state and local partners will be ready to move forward with the several projects that they have waiting in the wings.
“And, by the way, I am pleased to see a representative of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation here today. The Foundation has already been working on funding projects through the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, administering approximately $2.5 billion in funds to projects all across the region.
“It will be good to hear of lessons learned in administering these separate funds in hopes of perfecting the process overall as we move forward. However, as I mentioned, and you’ve already mentioned, one of my biggest concerns is the slow pace of the administration in meeting, or should I say, not meeting the deadlines that are prescribed under the law.
“For example, even settlement money received to date cannot be expended without a final rule from the Treasury Department. Under the RESTORE Act, the Department was directed to establish procedures to expend any money received within 180 days – so that would have been around December 2012.
“However, to date, we still have not received a final rule from the Department. And, as we will hear today from Grover and Mimi, this delay has had some real on-the-ground implications for stakeholders.
“In Florida, our counties are impeded from even moving forward in the planning process as they do not have the administrative funds necessary to undertake such a massive project. The restoration process has many moving parts, several different funds, and several different administrators of those funds.
“Proper planning is going to be key in making sure spending is not duplicative and that the money is spent in the most responsible way possible. Unfortunately, this delay by the Administration has already impeded the success of restoration.
“And, while I appreciate the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council’s announcement on Friday of last week on their, quote, ‘progress’ that they’ve made in finalizing the approval process for projects submitted to them, I find their announcement lacking in the detail necessary to truly provide a clear and straightforward process for interested parties.”