Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- It is an effort to shed sunlight on a process some environmentalists believe may be keeping the public in the dark.

'We want to have strong conversations, have a strong dialogue with the trustees,' said Jill Mastrototaro of the Sierra Club.

The trustees are part of Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA), which was created after the BP oil spill. The trustees represent all the Gulf Coast states and several federal agencies. As a group, they are charged with figuring out what projects will get an initial $1 billion in early BP restoration money.

On Wednesday, though, a coalition of environmentalists released a report called 'Sunshine on the Gulf,' which was critical of how that selection process will be handled.

'There are all these decisions being made behind closed doors,' said Mastrototaro.

The report looked at a sampling of the hundreds of proposed oil spill restoration projects across the Gulf Coast. It found examples of what it called 'appropriate projects,' such as the restoration of the Chandeleur Islands and the removal of abandoned oil and gas wells close to shore.

However, among their findings were other projects, which they say have little to do with restoring the damaged eco-system.

'Construction or repair of police headquarters and fire stations in Alabama; parking structures in Alabama and Mississippi,' said Cynthia Sarthou of the Gulf Restoration Network.

The coalition said they are concerned about those kinds of proposed projects and want more public input, along with a definitive list of the criteria for how projects will be selected.

'That is our point-- get our input upfront,' Sarthou said. 'Don't wait until the end to come to us and say, 'Oh, this is what we selected, so give us your input.''

Eyewitness News attempted to contact NOAA and the NRDA trustees for comment on this story. No one responded to our calls or emails.

For its part, the environmental coalition said Louisiana has been upfront about the 13 priority projects it wants to get funded. They now hope the trustees will follow that lead, in order for the public to learn early on where the restoration money will eventually go.

To see a copy of the report, go to

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