Oil spill fines will pay for 300 new Gulf conservation jobs
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Three hundred new conservations jobs will open up in the next few years in states along the Gulf of Mexico, paid for by about $7 million in BP oil spill penalties.
Employment will ramp up gradually, with 10 new jobs in each state next year, 20 more in 2019 and another 30 the following year, for a total of 60 new jobs in each of the five states by 2020, conservation official Jeff DeQuattro said Wednesday.
“We’ll be recruiting in October, November, December, with boots on the ground in January,” said DeQuattro, The Nature Conservancy’s director of restoration and program director for the new GulfCorps.
Meetings to discuss possible projects will begin Friday, DeQuattro said.
Officials say GulfCorps workers will learn marketable restoration skills on projects that could include planting native vegetation, removing invasive species, repairing banks and shorelines and creating turtle or bird habitat on beaches.
“We hope this can expand for 15 years as oil spill money is being spent,” DeQuattro said in an earlier interview. “We’re creating the infrastructure for this to last much longer than this three-year period.”
The conservancy, The Corps Network and the Student Conservation Association are working together under a RESTORE Act grant administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The RESTORE Act set up a trust fund for 80 percent of the water pollution penalties paid after July 2012 by companies involved in the 2010 oil spill.
A well that BP PLC was drilling from the Deepwater Horizon rig blew in April 2010, killing 11 men. It took nearly three months to cap the well, which spewed an estimated 134 million gallons (507 million liters) of oil in the nation’s worst offshore oil spill.
“This project will address critical environmental issues along the Gulf while employing young adults who live in communities directly impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” Mark Burget, The Nature Conservancy’s executive vice president, said in a news release.
DeQuattro said the program is designed to fill in gaps from bigger projects.
“A lot of the oil spill projects are going to be done by large contracting firms with heavy equipment and machinery. There’s a need for these tactical teams to go in and do things these contractors can’t do with their equipment or don’t want to do,” he said.
NOAA and RESTORE Council representatives from each state will work with GulfCorps to decide specific projects in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, DeQuattro said.
“I’m presenting some project ideas that are out there already, but they may have other suggestions,” he said.