Obama Praised for Signing Executive Order Creating Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Task Force

 President Obama’s signing of an executive order to create a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force is a key first step to fulfilling his promise to restore the Gulf and to make it even better than it was before the BP oil disaster, according to five local and national environmental groups.

“Moving forward quickly with a robust task force is a key first step to fulfilling the President’s promise to restore the Gulf and to make it even better than before the BP oil disaster,” said a joint statement by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Environmental Defense Fund, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, National Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation. “The task force can help expedite projects to restore protective wetlands in coastal Louisiana that Congress authorized even before the BP oil disaster.”

The executive order creating the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force—which will be led by EPA Administrator and New Orleans native Lisa Jackson—was one of the recommendations in a long-term Gulf Coast recovery plan that was released last week by Navy Secretary and former Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus.

Secretary Mabus’ report recommended:

“…that the President urge Congress to dedicate a significant amount of any civil penalties recovered under the CWA [Clean Water Act] from responsible parties toward assisting the region where the damage from the spill occurred…[and] that Congress establish a Gulf Coast Recovery Council to coordinate the federal, state, local, and tribal actions that will be taken, funded in part with financial support from Clean Water Act civil penalties that BP will have to pay to restore the Gulf Coast…The function of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force will be to coordinate the recovery of the region’s ecosystem. If Congress acts to establish the proposed Gulf Coast Recovery Council, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force could be modified or dissolved, with its duties and coordinating bodies subsumed by the Gulf Coast Recovery Council as directed by Congress.”

“The task force’s success depends heavily on Congress establishing a Gulf Coast Recovery Council, as well as prompt congressional approval of a dedicated, long-term funding stream—whether it is with BP financial penalties or another funding source—to design and implement already authorized wetland restoration projects in a timely manner,” the groups concluded. “We call on politicians–-elected and those running for office–-to embrace the Mabus plan and commit to enacting a dedicated fund to restore the wetlands of the Mississippi River Delta.”

Nearly eight out of 10 voters (78%) in Gulf region states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas) say they favor creation of a separate fund for the Gulf region and the Mississippi River Delta that includes penalty payments from BP for violating the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act, according to a bipartisan poll the groups released last week.

The poll was funded by the Walton Family Foundation and conducted by the Democratic firm Lake Research Partners and the GOP firm Bellwether Research and Consulting.

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