NAACP: BP Oil Spill Fines Should Be Used for Gulf Coast Jobs!
Mississippi NAACP president urges Congress not to forget black fishermen
Last week, Chairman John L. Mica of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced a hearing for the RESTORE Act, a bill that would send 80% of Clean Water Act fines levied against BP for the 2010 oil disaster to Gulf Coast states for research and restoration.
The bill has strong, almost unanimous bipartisan support across the Gulf Coast in both the House and Senate, and Congress should do what is both right and fair by quickly passing this legislation to ensure approximately $1.2 billion in fines can create jobs and reach impacted communities.
As president of the Biloxi, Miss. chapter of the NAACP, I see firsthand the effects for local fishermen, restaurant workers and others that have been hit hard by the BP oil disaster. As a boardmember for the nonprofit Equity and Inclusion Campaign, a Gulf Coast wide coalition of community and faith-based organizations, I know the same is true across state lines, and that our people are on the front lines. The people that lead the Equity and Inclusion Campaign share similar stories of spill-induced job shortages, less hours for hourly wage earners, and rough economic times that could be remedied by putting people back to work on restoration projects. For far-flung bayous and coastal cities alike, Congress has a great opportunity to make it right and ensure these fines are used to restore, protect and recover our communities.
Under the current law, fines levied under the Clean Water Act will go to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to just sit around in a Treasury account waiting for another disaster to happen so they can finally be used. Congress should apply these funds to the damage done by the current disaster and get jobs on the ground by quickly passing the RESTORE Act.
But Gulf Coast governors need to do their part, too, if this is to truly create recovery opportunities for people still reeling from the BP oil spill. These funds aren’t supposed to line state coffers. Governors Rick Scott of Florida, Robert Bentley of Alabama, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Perry of Texas must all ensure that funds create economic opportunities at the ground level -- and that includes local, women and minority-owned businesses and the employees they hire.
In most of the Gulf States, set-aside requirements for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) are not part of state law. Yet, if local and minority-owned contractors and their employees in coastal counties and parishes — many of whom boast a high percentage or even majority of African-Americans -- are going to benefit economically, then contracts and jobs must be created locally. Restoration of the Gulf Coast can be an engine for economic recovery, but that means local business and their employees must be included, enabling these same workers to spend in their communities.
To see how BP fines come down to the Gulf Coast under the RESTORE Act, please visit: http://www.equityandinclusion.org/data/clean-gulf-chart-bb2.pdf