Alabama is not.
Instead, the State of Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council, a group headed by Gov. Robert Bentley and Jimmy Lyons, the director of the Alabama State Port Authority, will determine which projects will be funded. The council is made up of local elected officials from Mobile and Baldwin counties.
Politicians, in other words. Not an environmentalist or a scientist in the bunch.
Anyone who knows Gulf Coast politics knows that if you scratch a politician you will find a businessman with economic development on their mind.
Giving them sole control of that money is not a good idea.
While scientists and local environmental groups are in general agreement about where the money should go — creating new oyster reefs, restoring marsh habitat, cleaning up damaged watersheds — they can make their case only at public forums. When it comes to picking the projects, they are out of the loop.
So it is not surprising that the undertakings most talked about are those that will improve the business climate and help the tourism economy — improved infrastructure, more recreation areas, and a convention center at Gulf State Park.
Those are worthy projects, but the link between them and the BP spill is tenuous at best. The primary damage done by the oil was to the environment, but most politicians in Alabama’s coastal counties are more interested in developing than restoring and preserving. Environmentalists and scientists have the evidence to back up the need to address their priorities. Politicians and their tourism-industry allies have grand plans to redesign the Coast to meet their needs and desires.
By filling the Recovery Council with politicians, it is obvious that the governor intends that politics will be the driving force in determining who and what gets attention when the BP money is in the bank. As for the environment, it will wait in line and get what is left over, if anything is.