A study commissioned by two nonprofit groups says thousands of jobs would be created along the Gulf Coast if money from BP oil spill penalties and other sources were dedicated to coastal restoration.
The report by the research firm Mather Economics comes as Gulf interests press Congress for passage of the Restore Act, which would take 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties charged to parties responsible for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and dedicate it to coastal wetland restoration and economic recovery in the states affected by the spill. The fines could run anywhere from $5.4 billion to $21.1 billion.
The study examines different scenarios for funding and job creation but concentrates largely on what it called a "moderate" model estimating creation of more than 57,000 new jobs based on coastal wetland restoration spending of $1.5 billion per year over the first 10 years.
The economic development group GNO Inc. and the Walton Family Foundation commissioned the study.
The Restore Act is included in a transportation bill that has passed the Senate and is part of current House and Senate negotiations over different versions of the bill. Sticking points between the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House have included whether the bill should include language fast-tracking federal approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.
The report's moderate scenario also estimates that 77,453 new jobs could be created over the next 50 years with $25 billion dedicated to restoration funding. That's more than the Restore Act is estimated to provide, although there are other sources, including the Gulf of Mexico Security Act, that is expected, starting in 2017, to begin sending a portion of offshore energy royalties to Louisiana for coastal restoration -- estimated to run about $200 million to $300 million a year.
"The Restore Act is the first and largest source we know of right now," Michael Hecht, president of GNO Inc., said Wednesday.
The Mather report says that the strongest employment growth is likely across the transportation and utilities, government, leisure and hospitality, business services, construction, retail trade, and manufacturing sectors, with salaries ranging from $13,334 to $54,471.