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Business officials push for RESTORE Act funds to pay for ecosystem restoration

A group of 120 business leaders have signed a letter urging that money allocated under the RESTORE Act be used to rebuild the Gulf Coast’s ecosystem after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The RESTORE Act became law last summer. It directs 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines BP and other companies connected to the spill will pay to states that border the Gulf of Mexico.

Total payments are expected to be more than $20 billion, and are intended to fund efforts to restore the Gulf’s ecosystem. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which includes governors of Gulf States, will allocate the money.

The business leaders’ letter – sent Tuesday to the five Gulf states governors, including Gov. Phil Bryant – says the money should be used for environmental restoration, not diverted elsewhere.

“Right now, there is a remarkable opportunity to restore the Gulf, to strengthen its traditional industries, spur innovation, accelerate emerging markets centered on environmental restoration and promote new prosperity,” says a press release accompanying the letter. It cites a 2010 study done by economic consultants in Georgia that says $20 billion in RESTORE Act money could create almost 57,000 jobs in the Gulf region.

“These restoration projects create a demand for work from a wide variety of companies in the engineering, construction, transportation and manufacturing sectors,” Thomas Matthews, of Pass Christian-based marine specialty construction firm Matthews Brothers  Inc., said in the release. “As one of the first firms to win a contract on a post-BP spill environmental restoration project in Mississippi, I have witnessed firsthand that investments in coastal restoration can mean jobs for coastal workers and economic growth for local businesses and communities.”

The 2010 spill sent over the course of three months almost 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf, which breaks down to about 210 million gallons. The worst damage in Mississippi came around the Barrier Islands that sit a few miles south of the shore. It’s considered the worst manmade environmental disaster in history, and came less than five years after Hurricane Katrina, considered the worst natural disaster ever.

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