Monday, May 6, 2013

Protests mount on use of BP Gulf spill funds

May 6, 2013 6:50 pm

Protests mount on use of BP Gulf spill funds

A plan to build a convention centre in Alabama using money given by BP to restore the coast of the Gulf of Mexico has angered environmentalists, raising concerns over how funds to improve the environment are spent.
The plan is part of projects worth $594m announced last week by BP and the five coastal states affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, funded out of the $1bn that the company promised in 2011 for early restoration of the Gulf.

Groups including the National Wildlife Federation have protested that building the convention centre in Gulf State Park in Alabama, justified as a way to improve public access to the natural resources of the coast, will do nothing to repair the damage done by the spill.
The controversy is a foretaste of even fiercer disagreements that are likely over the much larger sums expected to flow into the region in damages and penalties following the trial over the disaster at the federal court in New Orleans.
The convention centre is planned as part of a refurbishment of the park using $85.5m of BP’s money: the bulk of the $94m spending announced in Alabama last week. It will replace a lodge that was wrecked by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Robert Bentley, Alabama’s governor, said the centre, which will be built and run by a public-private partnership, would create jobs and generate more tourism in the state.
David White of the NWF said his organisation was “shocked” by the decision.
“The American public expects to see BP’s oil spill money spent on projects that will restore the health of the Gulf coast, not on pork-barrel projects like a convention centre,” he said.
Another group, Alabama Coast United, said the governor had “decided to cause more damage by disturbing land that has been reclaimed by nature”, rather than spending money to remove oil that settled on the seabed along the coast.
Several of the new projects announced by BP are not directly related to damage done by the spill.
Texas, for example, is spending more than $10.7m to restore Galveston Island State Park to its condition before Hurricane Ike in 2008.
In Florida, $10.8m is being spent to remove asphalt from beaches, and $4m on two passenger ferries.
BP said that although some of the places where its money was being spent had not been directly affected by the spill, the projects would “address loss of use by providing residents and visitors with new recreational options, better access to existing natural resources and a greater opportunity to enjoy them”.
Projects have to be approved by BP and the natural resource trustees, which are representatives of several US federal government departments and agencies, and the coastal states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Texas.


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