An effort to pass the Restore Act by Louisiana lawmakers failed Wednesday in the House. The act would send 80 percent of fines from the Clean Water Act from the 2010 BP oil spill to Gulf Coast states affected by the spill.
The Restore Act is part of the $109 billion Senate transportation bill which funds highway, bridge and transit projects. It expires March 31. The Senate passed the bill 74-22.
According to the Times-Picayune, the House will take up a 90-day extension of the current transportation bill. Apparently, House Speaker John Boehner apparently went for the extension because he cannot get the votes for a GOP $260 billion, five-year transportation bill.Some conservative Tea Party members say the bill is too expensive. They cite a decline in federal gas taxes because Americans have cutback on driving and are purchasing more fuel efficient vehicles because of high gas prices.
Democrats have issues with provisions that would fund some of the spending through an increase for inland and offshore oil and gas development.
"House Republicans continue to show that they value ideology instead of job creation and coastal restoration," says Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce not only backs the bill with environmental and business groups, but it also questions why existing law "does not allow for allocation of any of the funds collected to be directed towards the environmental or economic recovery of the impact areas," as K. Bruce Josten, executive vice president for government affairs at the Chamber, wrote to Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson. "The RESTORE Act would remedy this inequity by creating the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund to be funded by redirecting 80 percent of the civil penalties collected by the Environmental Protection Agency."
In the meantime, Jill Mastrototaro, Gulf Coast campaign director of the Sierra Club, sent out a petition via email today getting on the EPA about the reportedly hundreds of dead dolphins, whales and sea turtles that have been washing up on the Gulf's shores since the 2010 spill, as well as the inexplicable illnesses suffered by coast residents.
Mastrototaro wants the EPA to let the public know what exactly was in the dispersant chemicals dumped into the Gulf to breakdown the oil that gushed forth after the April 20, 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon that killed 11 and injured 17 others.
The petition states: "Two years after the BP oil spill, the public can only know the brand name of the chemicals used, but not what's in them. The EPA needs to decide what is more important - company secrets or the health of the public and our environment.
"Until we find out what's going on, we can't protect the dolphins or ourselves. Make sure the EPA stands up for the Gulf. Tell EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to protect public health and the environment - we need to know what's in our waters!
"This year, communities across the Gulf Coast have been pushing for better EPA regulation of oil dispersants and full disclosure of the ingredients in these toxic chemicals."
To see the petition, go here.