Tuesday, 28 September 2010 17:51

Navy Sec. Mabus Submits Gulf Plan To Obama,EPA Jackson To Take Lead

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President Obama asked Secretary Mabus, as the former Governor of Mississippi to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan to be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists and other Gulf residents.  The plan provides a comprehensive assessment of immediate post-spill needs, as well as a proposal for federal assistance in the overall recovery of the region.  The plan includes economic development, community planning, restoration of the ecosystem and environment, public health efforts and assistance to individuals and businesses impacted by the spill in the Gulf.

 Secretary Mabus submitted the recommendations to the President today.  The President has selected EPA Administrator Jackson to lead the task force charged with implementing the recovery plans.  Lisa Jackson is from New Orleans.

Below is a letter from Secretary Mabus submitted along with the Gulf Coast Restoration Plan:

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.




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