Local Leaders Meet to Discuss Gulf Coast Restore Act - SLIDESHOW

By: Eyewitness News Email
By: Eyewitness News Email

Tallahassee, Florida - May 29, 2012 -

More than 100 leaders from throughout the Gulf region are sending a message to Senate and House leaders. They want lawmakers to pass legislation that could mean and economic boost and more jobs for coastal areas impacted by the BP oil spill.

Eyewitness News is at the Wharf Express on Magnolia Drive in Tallahassee where leaders are holding a press conference to announce their joint statement. Local business owners are also here. The officials and leaders want Congress to pass the Restore Act.

If passed, the RESTORE Act would direct the majority of penalties paid by those responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill back to Gulf communities. The President and C.E.O. of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association says the tourism and hospitality industry is the driving force in Florida's economy, and says it was tremendously compromised after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010.

The RESTORE Act requires 80 percent of the fines paid by BP through the Clean Water Act to go toward the restoration efforts of impacted Gulf States. Leaders say it will ensure that Florida counties are appropriately compensated after one of the country's worst environmental disasters.

The leaders say clean beaches, healthy ecosystems, and other natural resources are vital components in not only bringing visitors to the Sunshine State, but also encouraging residents to travel in state.

Eyewitness News will bring you more information as it becomes available.

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Tallahassee, Fla.— As Congress prepares to vote on the RESTORE Act, more than 100 leaders of cities, municipalities, economic development organizations, and chambers of commerce throughout the Gulf region have sent a joint letter to Senate and House leaders urging them to consider the deep economic benefit and job creation potential the region would have if the RESTORE Act were made law. If passed, the RESTORE Act would direct the majority of penalties paid by those responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill back to Gulf communities.

“This legislation is vital to our communities’ efforts to bounce back from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” the letter said. “The economic and ecological restoration called for under the RESTORE Act will create needed private sector jobs while reclaiming vital natural and commercial assets that are unique to the Gulf Coast.”

Earlier this year, the House and Senate both passed versions of the RESTORE Act as part of their Transportation Bills. The legislation dedicates 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines from BP, and the other parties responsible for the Gulf oil spill, to restoring the Gulf Coast. The legislation will ensure money paid to the federal government in penalties isused to rebuild the economies of Gulf Coast communities that were directly impacted by the spill. Without this directive, billions of dollars in expected fines could go toward unrelated federal spending. The bills are now in conference awaiting final action from Congress in order to send them to the President’s desk to become law.

“The long-term viability of the Gulf is dependent upon preserving its coast. The economy and security of the nation is significantly dependent upon the Gulf,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “With this interdependence in mind, passing the RESTORE Act is both a regional and national imperative.”

Signatories include the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and the West Galveston Island Property Owners Association in Texas,among others. Together, they are urging Congress to focus on the legislation’s short- and long-term impact on the fisheries, marine and wildlife habitats, beaches, and outdoor spaces that are fundamental to the Gulf Coast economy and play a critical role in the viability of our national economy.

According to a Duke University study released in December 2011, the RESTORE Act could create jobs that would benefit at least 140 businesses across the country with nearly 400 employee locations in 37 states. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Gulf produces roughly 40 percent of the seafood in the contiguous 48 states, and the region is also home to 10 of the country’s 15 largest ports.

“The devastating effect of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster continues to have a long-term impact on businesses and the environment along the Gulf Coast,” said Win Hallett, president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. “We strongly urge swift passage of the RESTORE Act to make ‘whole’ cities, counties, businesses, individuals, and ecosystems across the Gulf of Mexico.”

“The growth and health of the Gulf Coast region from Texas, through Houston, to Florida is critical to the wellbeing of the U.S. economy,” said Micah Hirschfield, vice president of communications at the Greater Houston Partnership, the Houston business community's primary advocate. “For that reason, GHP urges support and approval of the RESTORE Act, which helps our region develop and fittingly appropriates the funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the communities that need it.”

“This commitment to reinvest in the Mississippi Gulf Coast is critically important as the businesses move toward a full recovery,” said Mike Cashion, executive director of the Mississippi Hospitality & Restaurant Association. “The Gulf Coast is a tourism destination with a wonderful story to tell. Restoration of the Gulf Coast, and the tourism industry will mean more jobs and an across-the-board positive economic impact.”

“In Panama City Beach, our economy depends on beautiful natural resources that were injured in the BP oil disaster, including our alluring beaches and fresh Gulf seafood, which drive tourism to our restaurants, resorts, and businesses,” said Beth Oltman, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce. “Passage of the RESTORE Act will not only put the Gulf Coast on the path to revitalize our precious natural resources but also to mend our economy.”

Full text of the letter is below.

May 29, 2012

To our Senate and House Leaders:

It has been two years since the start of the gulf oil spill which had profound environmental and economic impacts on the Gulf Coast communities. As leaders of concerned communities, cities, associations and businesses, we affirm our support for the RESTORE Act in the context of the transportation reauthorization bill.

The RESTORE Act would help restore our region’s economy and the natural resources on which our communities rely. This common-sense legislation would direct 80 percent of the Clean Water Act civil penalties paid by those responsible for the spill back to our communities - where the damage from the spill was done.

This legislation is vital to our efforts to bounce back from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The economic and ecological restoration called for under the RESTORE Act will create needed private sector jobs while reclaiming vital natural and commercial assets that are unique to the Gulf Coast and critically important to the economic and environmental health of the nation.

We are grateful for the leadership of our congressional delegations in advancing the RESTORE Act and for the support you and your colleagues already have demonstrated for the gulf region. The decisive action in both the House and the Senate on the RESTORE Act to dedicate the penalties to the gulf reflects broad support across the country for gulf restoration.

We hope that you will do all you can in this crucial effort to make our communities whole and deliver passage of the RESTORE Act as a part of the final transportation bill to the President to sign into law as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

The following 118 Gulf Coast cities, municipalities, counties, economic development groups and chambers of commerce:

Jo Hood
Chairman
Alabama Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce

Herb Malone
President and CEO
Alabama Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau

Lawrence M. Fidel
President and CAE
Alabama Hospitality Association &
Alabama Restaurant Association

Jerry Mohn
President
American Shore & Beach Preservation Association: Texas Chapter

Tommy Martinez
Parish President
Ascension Parish, LA

Assumption Parish Police Jury, LA

Charles Gruber
County Commissioner
Baldwin County, AL District 4

Adam Knapp
President and CEO
Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce, LA

Carol Roberts
President and CEO
Bay County Chamber of Commerce, FL

Neal Wade
Executive Director
Bay County Economic Development Alliance, FL

Rebecca Templeton
Executive Director
Bayou Grace Community Services

Jennifer Armand
Executive Director
Bayou Industrial Group

Jim Rich
President and CEO
Beaumont Chamber of Commerce, TX

William Stallworth
Councilman
City of Biloxi, MS

Lisa Johnson
President and CEO
Bossier Chamber of Commerce, LA

William Canary
President and CEO
Business Council of Alabama

Les Faurnum
President
Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, LA

Earnestine Horn
Parish Administrator
Cameron Parish, LA

Deborah Randolph
President and CEO
Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce

George Swift
President and CEO
Chamber of Commerce Southwest Louisiana

Scott Kirkpatrick
President
Coast Builders Coalition, LA
Bailey Yelding
Mayor
City of Daphne, AL

Jeff Collier
Mayor
Town of Dauphin Island, AL

Fred B. Rounsaville
Chairman
Dauphin Island Water andSewer Authority, AL

Larry Sassano
President
Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County, FL

Beth Kirkland
Executive Director
Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County, FL

Rod West
Executive Vice President and CAO
Entergy, LA

Ginny Russell
Vice President of Community and Governmental Affairs for Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce
Envision Coastal Alabama

Grover Robinson
County Commissioner
Escambia County, FL

John Smith
Legislative Director
Florida Association of Counties
and
Wakulla County, FL

Don Kirkman
President
Florida’s Great Northwest

Carol Dover
President and CEO
Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association

Joseph Parrish
Commissioner
Franklin County Board of Commissioners, FL

Joseph Jaworski
Mayor of Galveston, TX

Jerry Mohn
President
West Galveston Island Property Owners Association, TX

David J. Camardelle
Mayor
Town of Grand Isle, LA

Warren Yeager
Commissioner
Gulf County, FL

Robert Craft
Mayor
City of Gulf Shores, AL

Anthony Kaiser
Chairman
Gulf United Metro Business Organization (GUMBO), AL

Kim Savant
President
Harrison County Board of Supervisors, MS

Drake Pothier
President and CEO
Houma/Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce, LA

Micah Hirschfield
Vice President, Communications
Greater Houston Partnership, TX

Errol Romero
Parish President
Iberia Parish, LA

Jackson County Board of Supervisors, MS

Timothy P. Kerner
Mayor
Town of Jean Lafitte, LA

Todd Murphy
President and CEO
Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, LA

Julie Conley
Executive Director
Jefferson County Economic Development Council, FL

John F. Young, Jr.
Parish President
Jefferson Parish, LA

Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission, LA

City of Key Colony Beach, FL

Rob Guidry
President and CEO
Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, LA

Charlotte Randolph
Parish President
Lafourche Parish, LA

Lin Kiger
President and CEO
Lafourche Parish Chamber of Commerce, LA

Randy Roach
Mayor
City of Lake Charles, LA

Daniel L. Juneau
President and CEO
Louisiana Association of Business & Industry

Stan Harris
President and CEO
Louisiana Restaurant Association

Ewell Smith
Executive Director
Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board

Carole Stevens
Executive Director
Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, FL

Neil Spirtas
Vice President, Public Policy & Small Business
Manatee Chamber of Commerce, FL

Edward V. Ciampi
Chairman
Martin County Board of Commissioners, FL

Jack Norris
President
Mississippi Gulf Coast Business Council

Kimberly Nastasi
CEO
Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce

Mike Cashion
Executive Director
Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association

Samuel L. Jones
Mayor
City of Mobile, AL

Winthrop M. Hallett, III
President
Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, AL

Connie Hudson
Commission President
Mobile County, AL

Timothy Matte
Mayor
City of Morgan City, LA

Charles Allen
Director of Coastal and Environmental Affairs
City of New Orleans, LA

Ben Johnson
President and CEO
New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, LA

Savanna Engen
Coordinator, Industry Relations and Government Affairs
New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau, LA

Michael Hecht
President and CEO
Greater New Orleans, Inc., LA

Jeffrey Hendry
Executive Director
Northwest Florida
League of Cities
and
Suwanee River League of Cities, FL

Don Amunds
Chairman
Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners, FL

Tony Kennon
Mayor
City of Orange Beach, AL

Beth Oltman
President and CEO
Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce, FL

Dan Rowe
Executive Director
Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, FL
and
Bay County Tourist Development Council, FL

Jim Hizer
President and CEO
Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, FL

Patsy Parker
Mayor
Town of Perdido Beach, AL

Robert L. Thomas
Executive Director
Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry, LA

Billy Nungesser
Parish President
Plaquemines Parish, LA

Joel Chaisson
Executive Director
Port of South Louisiana

Simone Maloz
Executive Director
Restore or Retreat, LA

Chassity McComack
Executive Director
River Region Chamber of Commerce, LA

Jerry Graves
CAO
St. Bernard Parish, LA

Stephen Reuther
CEO
St. Bernard Parish Chamber of Commerce, LA

Tommy Faucheux
Chairman
St. Charles Parish Economic Development Council, LA

Timmy Roussel
Parish President
St. James Parish, LA

Natalie Robottom
Parish President
St. John the Baptist Parish, LA

Paul P. Naquin
Parish President
St. Mary Parish, LA

Chris Steinocher
President and CEO
St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, FL

Dawn Sharpe-Brackett
President and CEO
St. Tammany East Chamber of Commerce, LA

Brenda Reine Bertus
Executive Director
St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation, LA

Pat Brister
Parish President
St. Tammany Parish, LA

Lacey Toledano
President and CEO
St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce, LA

Santa Rosa County, FL

Richard H. Bremer
President and CEO
Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, LA

Glenn Manning
Chairman
South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, AL

Kirk Meche
President
South Central Industrial Association, LA

Vic Lafont
Executive Director
South Louisiana Economic Council

Robert N. Pinkerton, Jr.
Mayor
City of South Padre Island, TX

Timothy P. Doody
President
The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East

Roger Ogden
Chairman
Southeast Super-Region Committee, LA

George Swift
President and CEO
Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance

Gordon A. Burgess
Parish President
Tangipahoa Parish, LA

Michel Claudet
Parish President
Terrebonne ParishConsolidated Government, LA
Texas Restaurant Association

Kathy Benoit
President and CEO
Thibodaux Chamber of Commerce, LA

The Honorable Walt Johnson
Vice Mayor
City of Titusville, FL

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

John Holic
Mayor
City of Venice, FL

Anne Milling
Founder
Women of the Storm

Gerry A. Demers
Assistant County Administrator
Walton County Board of County Commissioners, FL

Scarlett Phaneuf
Executive Director
Walton County Economic Development Alliance, FL

Dawn Moliterno
Executive Director
Walton County TouristDevelopment Council, FL

John I. Shaddinger, Jr.
Mayor
City of Westwego


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