County Looks for Lorax

Escambia County needs someone to represent environmental concerns on an advisory committee being formed to prioritize uses for the expected RESTORE Act money.

The county commission is forming a RESTORE Act advisory council ahead of the Gulf Coast’s expected financial windfall connected with BP’s Clean Water Act penalties. The panel will most likely consist of nine members, with an environmental representative getting one seat.

In addition to an environmental representative, the committee will be composed of a representative from the city of Pensacola, as well as individuals representing the respective ares of financial industry, the business community, transportation and government, as well as two unrestricted at-large positions to be approved by the county commission.

Passed earlier this year, the RESTORE Act ensures that 80 percent of the money collected through the Clean Water Act process stays in the region to address the impacts of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While some pots of the final sum will be controlled by state and federal agencies, some of Florida’s share comes directly to counties—Escambia expects an estimated $100 to $200 million.

In Escambia, officials have made it clear they intend to focus on economic development and infrastructure projects with the local RESTORE dollars. They have stressed that other allotments of funds—at the state and federal levels—are meant to address environmental concerns.

Insofar as the advisory committee goes, Escambia officials have decided to let local environmental groups select a representative from among their ranks. The commission is holding a meeting Jan. 7 to facilitate the selection process. If a representative cannot be determined by consensus, the top candidates will be asked to submit resumes to the county by Jan. 11, with a final choice to be made by commissioners the following week.

Early nominations may be made by submitting a person’s name and bio to Escambia County’s Community and Environment Department, or by calling 595-4988. Nominations may also be made at the Jan. 7 meeting.