Arthur Orr and his merry band of TVA bandits need to keep their grubby little hands off of our Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) money. GOMESA is federal legislation that directs money generated from the oil and gas drilling leases sold to companies drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to the states which border the Gulf of Mexico. GOMESA funds are to be spent on environmental restoration and protection projects for counties that are directly impacted by offshore drilling. You’d think we’d have learned from previous experiences, but yet again the state of Alabama on the brink of violating federal law by spending that money where it’s not supposed to be spent.
Like a reverse Robin Hood, state Senator Arthur Orr is up to his old tricks again where he takes from the people that need it the most and gives to the people that need it the least. He’s done it before, so it should be no surprise. After the BP oil spill, the company ended up settling for damages with the states that filed a lawsuit against them, and Alabama’s cut of the settlement ended up being one billion dollars. Instead of spending that money in the counties that lost revenue due to the spill, Arthur Orr made sure that money was spent at the state level. This time he has help from his cohort in the governor’s mansion.
State Senator Chris Elliott from Baldwin County pre-filed a bill in this legislative session that would codify in state law what federal law has already said. GOMESA money can only be spent in counties Mobile and Baldwin. That makes sense, since those are the only counties in Alabama impacted by offshore oil and gas drilling, right? Well, not according to the logic of Arthur Orr and his merry band of TVA bandits. They think the governor should be free to spend that money anywhere in the state. Of course they arrived at this conclusion after a cohort led by Jo Bonner (a former do-nothing congressman from Mobile) and the Senate liaison for the governor’s staff went around behind the scenes telling legislators from other parts of the state that “The governor may want to spend some of this money in your district”. This is all our erstwhile reverse Robin Hood needed to hear to get up to his old tricks again.
“Bonnie” Ivey and “Clyde” Orr are going to end up costing the state even more money in legal fees when Mobile Baykeeper ends up taking them to federal court to stop them from spending that money anywhere other than Mobile and Baldwin counties. When Mobile Baykeeper goes to court, they usually win. They know their stuff and they build such a solid case that winning is second nature to them. The real dichotomy is that they don’t like to go to court. They would rather people and governments do what is right, not only right by the environment, but right by the law.
However, there is still time to stop Bonnie and Clyde. You can call your legislators and urge them to follow federal law for once and codify federal law into state law to make sure that the state doesn’t have to spend unnecessary resources defending a lawsuit that they will most certainly lose. Think about this, if we use the GOMESA money only in Mobile and Baldwin counties on environmental protection projects and environmental recreational opportunity enhancements, we will be in a better position next time to weather the storm when there’s an oil spill in the Gulf.