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Statement from MDEQ's Executive Director Trudy Fisher

Information from Trudy D. Fisher, MDEQ Executive Director and MississippiTrustee:

"We appreciate input from the Gulf Future Coalition as we do from everyoneas we move through the NRDA process. The federal and state Trustees willreview and consider any information submitted by the public. An integralpart of the NRDA process, from the beginning, has been to include and workwith interested groups. We’ve had numerous public meetings, discussions,and briefings across the Gulf with all Trustees committed to transparency.

“The public has been largely excluded from discussions on how to spend theone billion in early restoration money.”

The good news is no one has missed an opportunity to participate in theselection of early restoration projects for restoring the Gulf of Mexicofollowing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Beginning last summer the publicand local officials were invited, through public meetings, websites, emailsand other mediums, to submit restoration project ideas.

In Mississippi, we have received over 180 suggestions to date. Theseproject ideas have been available for review (www.mdeqnrda.com). As thereis currently no cutoff date, the public still has time to submit earlyrestoration project ideas on either MDEQ’s NRDA web site or through themail: Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, NRDA Process, P.O. Box 2261, Jackson, MS 39225.

In addition, public meetings (some 13 in all) will be held throughout theGulf states and in Washington, D.C. once a Draft Early Restoration Plan ismade available for public comment. The purpose of these meetings will be toprovide an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed projectsincluded in the Draft Early Restoration Plan. These meetings will be welladvertised, and we will encourage the public to attend.

"There is almost no official process or criteria in place for prioritizingthe NRDA projects"

The Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees arerequired to evaluate early restoration projects to determine if they meetall of the criteria laid out in the Oil Pollution Act Natural ResourceDamage Assessment Regulations (15 CFR §§ 990 et seq.), as follows:

The cost to carry out the alternative (cost-effectiveness).

The extent to which each alternative is expected to meet the TrusteeCouncil’s goals and objectives in returning the injured natural resourcesand services to baseline and/or to compensate for interim losses.

The likelihood of success of each alternative.

The extent to which each alternative will prevent future injury as aresult of the incident and avoid collateral injury as a result ofimplementing the alternative.

The extent to which each alternative benefits more than one naturalresource and/or service.

The effect of each alternative on public health and safety.

In evaluating and selecting projects for funding from the $1 billion, thetrustees also will apply the following additional considerations andcriteria:

The opportunity for and feasibility of implementing a projectexpeditiously, consistent with the goal of beginning projects in 2011 and2012.

Consistent with Section 1006 of the OPA (33 U.S.C. § 2706) and the OPA NRDARegulations (15 CFR §§ 990 et seq.), the trustees shall select projects forearly restoration that meet all of the following criteria:

a. contribute to making the environment and the public whole byrestoring, rehabilitating, replacing, or acquiring the equivalent ofnatural resources or services injured as a result of the Deepwater HorizonOil Spill or response (collectively, “incident”), or compensating forinterim losses resulting from the incident;

b. address one or more specific injuries to natural resources orservices associated with the incident;

c. seek to restore natural resources, habitats, or natural resourceservices of the same type, quality, and of comparable ecological and/orhuman-use value to compensate for identified resource and service lossesresulting from the incident;

d. are consistent with the anticipated long-term restoration needsand anticipated final restoration plan;

e. are feasible and cost-effective.

Projects selected by individual trustees must be approved by the TrusteeCouncil prior to being presented to BP. A series of draft plans will bedeveloped from projects approved by the trustees and BP. There will beopportunity for public input on any draft early restoration plan.

“The only formal public comment is currently scheduled for the very end ofthe process, once government and BP have negotiated which projects shouldbe presented.”

The Trustee Council is just now at the beginning of the Early Restorationprocess. It is not too late at all for comments from the public. Infact, we have been working hard to get some details for the public toreview and to provide comment on. Now is the time to comment, and asMississippi’s Trustee I hope that the Gulf Future Coalition, along with allour interested citizens, will make the most of this opportunity toparticipate in the process.

Also, for the public’s information, work plans and raw data are availableon the NOAA web site www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov.spillrestoration.noaa.goAs Mississippi’s Trustee, I respect the Gulf Future Coalition’s hard workand concern and look forward to hearing more from them as well as others."

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