The Louisiana trustees are considering a broad suite of early restoration projects. Project proposals are evaluated using criteria included in the Oil Pollution Act NRDA Regulations, the Early Restoration Framework Agreement, Louisiana-specific criteria identified in the State’s Regional Restoration Planning (RRP) Program and other practical considerations.
The OPA NRDA Regulations, 15 C.F.R § 990.54, require the Trustees to evaluate proposed restoration alternatives based on, at a minimum:
- The cost to carry out the alternative;
- The extent to which each alternative is expected to meet the Trustee Council’s goals and objectives in returning the injured natural resources and 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 a result of the incident and avoid collateral injury as a result of implementing the alternative;
- The extent to which each alternative benefits more than one natural resource and/or service;
- The effect of each alternative on public health and safety.
The Framework Agreement states that the Trustees shall select projects for early restoration that meet all of the following criteria:
- Contribute to making the environment and the public whole by restoring, rehabilitating, replacing, or acquiring the equivalent of natural resources or services injured as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill or response (collectively, “incident”), or compensating for interim losses resulting from the incident;
- Address one or more specific injuries to natural resources or services associated with the incident;
- Seek to restore natural resources, habitats, or natural resource services of the same type, quality, and of comparable ecological and/or human-use value to compensate for identified resource and service losses resulting from the incident;
- Are not inconsistent with the anticipated long-term restoration needs and anticipated final restoration plan;
- Are feasible and cost-effective.
Louisiana trustees will also consider the following state-specific criteria as identified in the
- Ability to implement project with minimal delay
- Degree to which project supports existing strategies/plans
- Project urgency
- Other factors as appropriate
Trustees also took into account several practical considerations that, while not legally mandated, are nonetheless useful and permissible to help screen the large number of potential qualifying projects. None of these practical considerations was used as a "litmus test;" rather, they were used as flexible, discretionary factors to supplement the decision criteria described above. For example, Trustees:
- took into account how quickly a given project is likely to begin producing environmental benefits;
- sought a diverse set of projects providing benefits to a broad array of potentially injured resources;
- focused on types of projects with which they have significant experience, allowing them to predict costs and likely success with a relatively high degree of confidence and making it easier to reach agreement with BP on the Offsets attributed to each project, as required by the Framework Agreement; and
- gave preference to projects that were closer to being ready to implement.
All of these discretionary factors are consistent with a key objective for pursuing early restoration: to secure tangible recovery of natural resources and natural resource services for the public's benefit while the longer-term process of fully assessing injury and damages is still underway.