What is the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund?
The Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (Gulf Fund) is a new fund established by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) in accordance with the terms of two plea agreements that resolved certain criminal cases against BP and Transocean as a result of 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. NFWF will administer and monitor $2.544 billion in payments received over a five-year period as required under the plea agreements.
What is the purpose of the Gulf Fund?
The purpose of the Gulf Fund established in the plea agreements is to “remedy harm and eliminate or reduce the risk of future harm to Gulf Coast natural resources” that were adversely affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.
How does this purpose compare to the objectives of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process?
While this purpose is similar to the objectives of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process required by laws such as the Oil Pollution Act, it is important to note that the Gulf Fund was established under a different legal framework than that underlying the NRDA process. Thus the Gulf Fund will seek to fund projects that complement the ongoing NRDA work but will do so on a separate, parallel track.
What is the allocation of funding among the Gulf Coast states?
Under the terms of the plea agreements, the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund will receive a total of $1.272 billion for barrier island and river diversion projects in the state of Louisiana; $356 million for natural resource projects in each of the states of Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi; and $203 million for similar projects in the state of Texas. Payments into the fund will occur over a five-year period, with more than half the funding coming in years four and five.
How will the money be used?
The money will fund projects benefitting the natural resources of the Gulf Coast of a type that were impacted by the spill. The plea agreements mandate that funds may be used only to support projects that remedy harm to natural resources -- habitats and species -- where there has been injury to, destruction of, or loss of the use of those resources resulting from the oil spill.
What will be the criteria for selecting projects in Louisiana?
The plea agreements require that the funds designated for Louisiana must be allocated solely to barrier island restoration projects and river diversion projects along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. In identifying these Louisiana projects, NFWF must give appropriate consideration to Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan and the Louisiana Coastal Area Mississippi River Hydrodynamic and Delta Management Study.
What will be the criteria for selecting projects in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Texas?
The plea agreements require that the funds available for projects in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Texas may only be used to support projects that remedy harm to natural resources -- habitats and species – of a type that were impacted by the oil spill. Further criteria will emphasize projects that:
Advance priorities in natural resource management plans, such as those called for under the RESTORE Act;
Are within reasonable proximity to where impacts from the oil spill occurred, as appropriate;
Are cost-effective and maximize environmental benefits;
Are science-based; and
Produce measurable and meaningful conservation outcomes to habitats and species of a type impacted by the oil spill.
How will projects be selected for funding?
The plea agreements require NFWF to consult with state natural resource agencies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in identifying projects to be supported by the Fund. NFWF will work to develop consensus among the state and federal agencies in identifying projects that meet the conditions of the plea agreements. NFWF retains sole authority to make final project decisions.
Which state and federal resource agencies will be consulting with NFWF?
In addition to consulting with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NFWF will consult with the following state agencies in each of the designated states:
Alabama: Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Florida: Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission & Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Louisiana: Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority
Mississippi: Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality
Texas: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Texas General Land Office
Each of these state agencies will coordinate input from other appropriate agencies within their respective states.
How will science be used to guide project selection?
As it does in its other conservation grant making, NFWF’s decision-making will rely on strong, science-based evidence and the technical input from state and federal resource agencies. Significant new research is being undertaken to improve the understanding of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and efforts to restore critical natural resources, enhance its resiliency and improve management. As this information becomes available, it will be used to further inform our decision-making.
How will project selection be coordinated with similar activities under RESTORE and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment programs?
As mandated in the plea agreements, NFWF has begun consulting with natural resource management agencies in each of the five Gulf States and with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These agencies serve on both the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustee Council and the RESTORE Council, and their input will be the primary means through which project selection under the Gulf Fund will be coordinated with similar activities under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and RESTORE programs.
How can organizations or agencies propose projects for funding?
To suggest a project for consideration or to learn more about the process each state has established or will establish for identifying priority Gulf Coast restoration projects, including those that may be candidates for funding through the Gulf Fund, please visit the websites each state has established for this purpose:
Alabama link – www.AlabamaCoastalRestoration.gov
Florida link -- http://www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon/default.htm
Louisiana link -- http://coastal.louisiana.gov/
Mississippi link – www.restore.ms
Texas link -- www.restorethetexascoast.org
Please note that some of these sites are still under construction and not yet active.
Is there a deadline for submitting projects for consideration?
As appropriate, deadlines may be set for project solicitations in individual states. Please check the websites above for specific details.
When will the first projects be selected?
As of April 2013, NFWF has received initial payments totaling $158 million. NFWF currently is conducting intensive consultation with state and federal resource agencies in order to identify pilot projects. NFWF anticipates announcing the obligation of at least a portion of these funds to pilot projects in the Fall of 2013.
What is the payment schedule and when will future projects be announced?
The plea agreements set out the terms of the payments from BP and Transocean into the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund. Payments into the fund will occur over a five-year period, with more than half the funding coming in years four and five. As of April 2013, NFWF has received initial payments of $158 million.
As payments are received, NFWF will allocate funds into separate accounts by state in accordance with the formula established by the plea agreements and will begin obligating the funds after the required consultations with state and federal resource agencies.
Here is the payment schedule into the Gulf Fund established by the plea agreements: