White House, Louisiana fight over millions intended for coast

White House, Louisiana fight over millions intended for coast

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Coastal advocates are pushing back against an Obama administration plan to divert millions of dollars now intended for restoration efforts.

The president's budget aims to redirect federal offshore oil royalties toward more national priorities, including coping with the effects of climate change.

After a similar effort failed last year, some Louisiana coastal advocates thought they had one the fight.

"He (President Obama) came down here for the Katrina anniversary," said Simone Malloz, Executive Director of Restore or Retreat.  "He seemed to understand Louisiana issues, and then to have it come up again, that causes great concern."

Starting in fiscal year 2017, Louisiana and other Gulf coast states earn a significant share of federal offshore oil royalties.

Louisiana voters amended the constitution to require the money be spent on coastal projects and infrastructure, by far the largest continuing pot of money dedicated to coastal restoration efforts.  Aides to former Governor Bobby Jindal estimated the eventual take would top $150 billion annually.

"We're looking at projects right now that we can implement as soon as that check comes in," Malloz said.

When congress adopted The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) in 2006, a pair of senators named Barack Obama and Joe Biden voted against the measure.

"Louisiana's going to be just fine," Vice-President Biden told FOX 8 in an exclusive interview this week.

"You've got states up and down the coast that are now affected by similar hurricanes, similar accidents that are happening," Biden said, "and we have to be able to provide for overall climate change."

Biden points out the federal government has steered billions of dollars from fines over the 2010 Gulf oil spill to Louisiana.

Biden said Louisiana would, "still participate in the that source," deriving a larger share of oil royalties than in past budgets.

However, Malloz points out GOMESA represents a large, guaranteed stream of money.

"Which means we can have more solid plans in place," Malloz said.

The state's congressional leaders have assured her they have the votes to defeat the White House proposal.  However, Malloz worries about an annual scramble to hang onto the money.

"We don't want people to think we have enough," Malloz said.  "We don't have enough."

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