In April 2016, a federal court approved a settlement among the United States, five Gulf states, and BP. This settlement resolved all of the federal and state governments’ remaining claims against BP related to the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. Under the terms of that settlement, billions of dollars will flow to the Gulf for restoration and recovery over the coming decades. This includes up to $8.8 billion that will be distributed through the natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) process, and $4.4 billion that will distributed through the RESTORE Act. It is expected that the pace of restoration will accelerate and, as it does, government agencies will face “increased workload[s] regarding permitting and environmental reviews…” 1 As demand on agencies increases, it will be important to identify mechanisms that can help achieve efficiencies.
This background paper identifies some of the existing mechanisms for fast-tracking “good” restoration projects that are subject to federal environmental compliance requirements.2 Environmental compliance typically involves three different elements: (1) environmental review (i.e. assessment and/or analysis of a proposed project’s impacts on the environment and consideration of project alternatives); (2) obtaining permits from agencies that regulate affected resources (e.g., waters and wetlands); and (3) consultation with agencies overseeing public trust resources (e.g., endangered species) that may be affected by a project.3 This paper explains some of the mechanisms available to help make these elements more efficient, addresses other ways to increase efficiency, and provides examples of Gulf restoration projects that have been fast-tracked.