The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was one of the worst man-made environmental
disasters our country has ever experienced. The oil spill has dramatically affected the lives,
jobs, and futures of millions of Gulf Coast residents. The Gulf of Mexico is a natural resource of
vital importance which provides immeasurable benefits and services to citizens throughout the
United States. The Gulf is also critical to nationwide commerce. Over time, the countless
demands made on the region have critically impacted the entire Gulf environment. The most
recent, and most damaging, of the impacts to the Gulf is Deepwater Horizon.
Today, the well is dead, oil no longer flows into the Gulf, and the attention of the media
and the public is beginning to shift elsewhere. But as the President said on June 15, 2010, we
will not forget what occurred, and we will not forget the promise made to the people of the
Gulf Coast to help them restore their ecosystems and economy to health. The effects of the oil
spill may reverberate in the region and across the country for years to come.
What happens in the Gulf of Mexico affects America. Nearly one third of the seafood
harvested in the continental United States, as well as 30 percent of oil production and 13
percent of our natural gas production, come from the Gulf. The Gulf is an environmental
treasure and central to the nation's economy. America needs the Gulf. America needs the Gulf
to be clean. America needs the Gulf to be healthy. America needs the Gulf to be sustainable.
For the past several months, at the President's direction, I have examined the question
of what comes next. What can our country do to make good on our commitment to the
region? This report is the result of that examination. It is the result of many trips to the Gulf
Coast and meetings and conversations with fishermen; health officials; environmental workers;
nonprofits and local leaders; scientists; members of the business community; elected officials;
and thousands of Gulf Coast residents who expressed their opinions in meetings and town halls
across all five states that touch the Gulf.
Throughout, I heard several common themes expressed over and over again: the plans
put in place to restore the Gulf must come from the people of the Gulf; they must be based on
science and good research; and the responsible parties must pay for the effects of the oil spill.
Additionally, people of the Gulf Coast believe the impacts of years of economic and
environmental damage resulting from coastal erosion and environmental neglect should be
addressed by those who have benefitted from the Gulfs resources.
In a town hall in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, I heard the best expression of the plan that
is needed: "Recovery and sustainability for the Gulf depends on three critical resources: our
people; our environment; and our commerce. We need a recovery plan that brings these
aspects back into balance."This report will focus on these three central requirements for recovery in the Gulf Coast:
the environment; the economy; and health and human services. These three areas are
inextricably linked - what happens to the ecosystem of the Gulf affects its economy and the
welfare of all Gulf Coast residents. As the Gulf ecosystem is rebuilt, economic activity will rise,
jobs will be created, and the region's health will improve. The report will also discuss the role
of nongovernmental organizations and community service in addressing each of the three issue
During the town hall meetings, I heard one other theme: The need for dedicated
recovery funding. As a gentleman told me in Theodore, Alabama: "I've seen so many starts,
but then, because there wasn't a dedicated funding source, nothing happened. "
A key recommendation of this report will be to call on Congress to dedicate a significant
amount of any civil penalties obtained from parties responsible for the oil spill under the Clean
Water Act to the recovery of the region that was damaged, and to those impacted by its effects.
The report will outline a recommendation for establishment of a congressionally mandated
governance structure to oversee and implement these and other sources of funding Congress
may appropriate with the goal of a coordinated federal, state, and local long-term recovery
It is clear that as we move forward, there must be a seamless transition from response
to recovery. In the five months since the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, many effective
mechanisms have been put in place to respond to the environmental, economic, and health
impacts of the spill. What has already been done cannot be lost, but rather must be built upon
and expanded. To accomplish this, the report recommends leadership in overseeing the
transition as well as the immediate establishment of a new Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration
Task Force. This intergovernmental structure will be lean, flexible, adaptive, and able to rapidly
incorporate the ideas of the communities it is designed to serve.
The task ahead is difficult and the actions recommended in this report will not resolve
every problem faced but they can serve as building blocks for a better future in the Gulf. Our
country has repeatedly faced big challenges, but it is exactly then that we display what is best
about America. We never give up. We never give in. Instead, we band together to work
toward a better future. Together, we will help make the Gulf of Mexico and the entire Gulf
Coast whole again - for its citizens, and for all America.