Alabama Governor Bob Riley is seeing red over the Obama regime’s plan to restrict use of Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) funds and exert near complete federal control over the types of damage assessments that will be conducted. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 authorizes NRDA assessments to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to determine the damage to natural resources and the human uses of those resources.
Months ago, during the height of the spill, federal officials told Riley and other states’ Governors that NRDA funds would be allocated for studies of both ecological resources and the economic activities that depend on them, and that the states would take the lead in identifying the projects and studies that go forward.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Gov. Bob Riley slammed President Barack Obama and other federal officials last week, saying they are breaking promises on how states can spend money expected as a result of the oil spill and who must approve the spending.
“For the federal government to come up and say that all of this NRDA (Natural Resource Damage Assessment) money has to go out for ecological restoration, and not for economic, is typical for a federal bureaucracy, telling the people what their needs are,” Riley said in a telephone interview.
“We never need to get to the point that any state has to have permission from the federal government to spend money that is rightfully ours,” he continued.
A White House official, who asked to remain anonymous in order to discuss the matter, gave the following statement to the Press-Register:
“Statutes define what responsible parties must pay and how those monies can be spent, and we have to follow the law,” the official said.
The administration declined further comment.
Riley’s concerns center on the NRDA environmental review and Clean Water Act fines, which could together bring billions of dollars to Gulf Coast states.
Federal officials told Riley months ago that NRDA money could be used for either economic or environmental restoration, the governor said. Now, they’re saying that the money should be limited to environmental use, according to Riley.
He also expressed concern that the federal government wants to approve recovery projects selected by the state, from both the NRDA and Clean Water Act funds, rather than letting the states decide on projects for themselves.
Are we shocked that the regime would break its promises? Not in the least.
Every one of the affected states—Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida—either have Republican Governors or will inaugurate new Republicans, and each state has leveled harsh criticism on the regime for its handling of the spill response, the deepwater drilling moratorium and the spill claims process. In short, the Obama regime has done absolutely nothing right, from the “day one” through the administration of the NRDA program.
Nothing documents the regime’s failure better than this site’s Deepwater Horizon Incident Timeline, a comprehensive chronology of events from the explosion of the rig through the final “bottom kill” of the leaking well.
At every turn, at every key decision point, whenever this regime has faced a choice between doing what’s right for the affected areas of the Gulf Coast or using the crisis for political gain, the regime has chosen politics. The NRDA issue is no different.
Instead of allowing the states to determine what resources need to be evaluated to determine the degree of damage, and in turn the amount of money to be collected and applied via the fines authorized by OPA 1990, the federal government intends to limit the NRDA studies to ecological resources. To make matters worse, the federal government intends to be the sole and final arbiter of what resources are included in the studies.
Who is better suited to determine what resources have been damaged—the states, with significant portions of their economies affected by the damage, or the Obama regime, which has never missed an opportunity to expand and consolidate the power of the central government?
The five governors of the Gulf Coast states should band together, develop a united front, and press its new allies in Congress to force the regime into allowing the states to identify NRDA priorities. Furthermore, the federal government should not be allowed to restrict NRDA studies to ecological resources and ignore the important economic, cultural and recreational activities that depend so heavily on the Gulf of Mexico.
If last Tuesday night’s election said one thing loud and clear, it was that the people have had enough of the heavy handed approach of the Obama regime. It must stop, and it must stop NOW.