Louisiana coast money at risk in federal budget

Updated: May. 23, 2017 at 6:46 AM CDT
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(WVUE) - President Donald Trump's first budget proposal calls for eliminating a key source of funding for coastal restoration, federal offshore oil revenue sharing.

Beginning next year, Louisiana and the other Gulf Coast States are expected to draw a higher portion of offshore revenue dollars under the Gulf of Mexico Security Act (GOMESA).

Louisiana is estimated to receive a payment of $140 million next year, which state officials plan to use as a continuing source of funding for the state's coastal master plan.

The America's Wetland Foundation, in a statement early Tuesday morning, called the elimination of GOMESA, "crippling to coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana."

"The fight for a share of OCS (offshore continental shelf) revenues was long, and finally, real dollars through GOMESA would begin coming to the state next year," said Sidney Coffee, senior advisory for the America's Wetland Foundation.

"Losing this important source of funding would be devastating to Louisiana's efforts to salvage the very coastline that benefits the entire country."

AWF argues the country has an interest in protecting the state's rapidly disappearing coastline, including areas of important infrastructure to the oil and gas industry.

"GOMESA shares revenues with states that serve the nation and the public interest by hosting offshore energy production and finances restoration due to impacts on communities and natural environments," said Val Marmillion, AWF managing director.

"How can this administration talk about shoring up our nation's infrastructure and then demolish funds to do just that in critical asset areas?"

 While administration officials did not directly address the GOMESA funding, a relatively small portion of the overall budget, Trump aides said the budget looks out for taxpayers.

"This is, I think, the first time in a long time that an administration has written a budget through the eyes of the people who are actually paying the taxes," White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said during a Monday press briefing in Washington.

As a practical matter, the loss of GOMESA funding might directly effect Louisiana's operating budget.

State officials have tried unsuccessfully to convince Congress to forgive Louisiana's portion of the cost of building the $14 billion hurricane levee system following Hurricane Katrina.  Louisiana's payments would amount to $100 million annually.

Aides to Governor John Bel Edwards have indicated they might be forced to dip into the GOMESA dollars unless the federal government forgives the obligation.

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