Alabama environmentalists miffed at oil spill settlement disbursement

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More than five years out from the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill that ravaged the Alabama coastline, everything is still not well according to many state environmental officials and activists.

The rub: They contend too much of the $627 million paid out by BP — which underwrote and operated the rig that spilled 3 million barrels of Louisiana light crude into the Gulf — in restoration aid is going to nonessential projects and is otherwise being poorly allocated.

A major bone of contention is the $58 million earmarked to rebuild a luxury beachfront hotel destroyed by a hurricane. While the merits of that project are debatable, many enviros are upset that the appropriation doesn’t seem germane: The hotel in question was a casualty of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, not the oil spill. Moreover, they contend much more pressing concerns are being ignored at such projects’ expense.

Significant sums are being spent elsewhere to repair ecologically sensitive settings such as Mississippi’s dilapidated Heron Bay, which will receive $50 million for restoration, and four major barrier islands off of Louisiana which will receive a much needed salve to the tune of $318 million. However, much of the struggled-for restitution is being spent with a wandering eye from the acute concerns many experts have urgently raised for years.

“We are disappointed,” Jordan Macha, an environmental policy analyst for the New Orleans-based Gulf Restoration Network, told The Associated Press. “We don’t think they fully addressed all the environmental concerns we have raised numerous times.”

An additional $28 million will be spent in Gulf Shores to help rectify wind and water damage to the coast, however. And state officials say the relief efforts have to be considered in their totality.

“All the projects have to have a nexus to the spill,” Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Ashley Williams said.

To proponents of greater sensitivity toward narrower, more urgent ecological goals though, it seems like the spill has barely even stopped.

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