Lafayette (La.) Daily Advertiser

Bill that could bring billions of coastal restoration dollars to Louisiana heads to Senate

By William Taylor Potter, 
A U.S. Senate committee advanced a bill Thursday that could send billions of dollars for coastal restoration to Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states.

The bill, called the Reinvesting in Shoreline Economies and Ecosystems (RISEE) Act, was authored by U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. The act would amend the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, to remove the cap on money that Gulf Coast states can receive for restoration efforts.

The committee unanimously voted to move the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

“This is another step in getting the $50 billion Louisiana needs to restore our coastline," Cassidy said in a release. “There is much more to do, but every step gets us closer to protecting our communities and our people.”

GOMESA gives a portion — around 37.5% — of the revenue collected by the federal government through Gulf of Mexico energy royalties to the four energy-producing Gulf states, namely Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama. The money has to be used for coastal restoration, preservation and protection efforts.

Under current law, the revenue that is split among the states is set at $375 million. Louisiana generally gets the bulk of the revenue sharing funds, and the state received more than $111.8 million in fiscal year 2022, with around $89.5 million going to the state government and around $22.4 million going to individual parishes.

The cap has changed over the last several years. From 2017 through 2019, the cap was at $375 million, but it increased to $487.5 million for 2020 and 2021. Beginning in 2022, the cap went back down to $375 million through 2055. The cap is eliminated in 2056 under the current law.

In addition to removing the cap, the RISEE Act would create a national revenue sharing mechanism for offshore wind, which is currently excluded from the program. The bill would send 50% of offshore wind royalties to the U.S. Department of Treasury, 37.5% to the states, and 12.5% to the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund. Any offshore wind lease actioned after Jan. 1, 2022, would be counted under this act.

Cassidy said in a release that the bill would also enhance transparency on how states use the money and would clarify that funds cannot be used on projects “primarily for entertainment purposes.”

The act has widespread support in Louisiana, including the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, several legislators, and many of the parish governments that typically receive GOMESA funds.

The act is co-sponsored by a bipartisan coalition including U.S. Sens. Angus King (I-ME), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Brian Schatz (D-HI), John Kennedy (R-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

National Ocean Industries Association President Erik Milito released a statement saying that more people in the Gulf Coast area "will benefit from dedicated sources of funding for critical projects."

"Whether it is through coastal restoration, hurricane protection, infrastructure improvement, or through countless other benefits, offshore energy development enables greater equity for coastal communities," Milito said. "The RISEE Act further connects the dots between continued responsible offshore energy development and environmental stewardship and coastal restoration and resiliency."