Obama forms task force for gulf restoration

President Barack Obama has signed an executive order officially forming a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force to deal with the ongoing aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson has been charged with chairing the task force and wasted no time in undertaking her duties; immediately leaving for a series of high-profile talks in the region once the order was signed.

Administrator Jackson has said the talks must focus on what the next steps must be, with much of the Gulf of Mexico still struggling to recover after a BP oil-well exploded in April, leading to five months of crude oil leaks which decimated marine life and much of the region’s fishing industry.

“The president has made clear that he wants restoration plans to come from the gulf coast, and not be imposed on the gulf residents by Washington,” Ms Jackson said at a meeting last Tuesday. “We’re counting on the people who know these areas best – the people who call the gulf home – to shape our work.”

The executive order came just days after the US government’s long-term restoration proposal was released.

Written by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, the plan calls for dedicated funds to support the gulf coast’s recovery and includes a recommendation for Congress to authorise the formation of a Gulf Coast Recovery Council to manage overall restoration efforts.

Obama’s decision to form the taskforce by executive order, therefore, has been seen as a move to ensure such a body is in place, without the need to wait for Congress to act.

Under Administrator Jackson’s leadership, the taskforce will be expected to enhance the coordination and implementation of the many different environmental and economic restoration programmes currently being delivered in the area by the EPA and numerous other federal bodies.

Jackson, she herself a local to the region, was a key part of the Obama administration’s immediate response efforts following the oil spill, and her expertise in environment-related issues will be central in spurring actions that help to restore the region’s ecosystem.

“As someone who grew up here, I know the ecosystem is the key to our future,” Jackson added.

“Our economy, our health and our culture are built on the coastline and the gulf waters. I know this, the president knows this, and we are going to stand with you.”

Sam Plester

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