A bi-partisan group of legislators has come together as the new House Gulf Coast Caucus. The group of eleven lawmakers from the Gulf Coast region is co-chaired by Reps. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Kathy Castor (D-FL). The group met for the first time last week to discuss how to best secure Clean Water Act penalty money for the Gulf of Mexico region. Currently in the House of Representatives there are several legislative proposals aimed at directing the billions of dollars BP is expected to pay in penalties. Gulf Coast lawmakers are concerned that unless they act, the penalty money—perhaps as much as $21 billion, given the size of the spill—will flow into the U.S. Treasury and be spent elsewhere.
Although its first priority is securing the oil spill penalty money, the caucus is sure to find a variety of other issues to tackle in short order. Over the past decade, the Gulf Coast has withstood a battery of hurricanes, suffered a massive oil spill, served as center-stage in a nationwide controversy over offshore oil drilling, and is the stage for some of the largest environmental restoration projects in the world, including efforts to bring back the River of Grass in the Everglades, and more recently, the Mississippi River Delta.
Special thanks to Michelle Erenberg, Gulf Restoration Network