Conservation Groups Praise White House for Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Executive Order

September 10, 2012
Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781,
Brian Moore, National Audubon Society, 202.386.1516,
Elizabeth Skree, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543,
(Washington, D.C. — September 10, 2012) Today, local and national conservation organizations thanked President Obama for issuing an executive order reinforcing the White House’s commitment to Gulf Coast restoration in the wake of the 2010 gulf oil disaster. The order was issued two months after the President signed the RESTORE Act into law, which will direct 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties paid by BP and others responsible for the 2010 gulf oil disaster to the Gulf Coast states to use for restoration.
“We thank the President and White House for their continued commitment to the Gulf Coast and look forward to working with them on a comprehensive restoration plan,” said a joint statement by Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. “More than two years after the oil spill, the gulf is still reeling from environmental and economic impacts. This executive order takes important steps forward to ensure that government agencies and officials are working closely together to keep restoration progressing.”
The order falls on the heels of a court document filed last week by the Department of Justice which elaborated on BP’s alleged gross negligence for its role in the 2010 gulf oil disaster. The filing suggests that the U.S. government is planning to take a hard stance against BP and to not let them off the hook for their carelessness.
“Through today’s executive order and the Department of Justice’s recent assertion that BP was ‘grossly negligent’ in the 2010 gulf oil disaster, the federal government is showing a true prioritization of gulf restoration,” the groups continued. “The people, economies and ecosystems all along the gulf need BP to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. The sooner BP pays its fines, the sooner gulf restoration can become a reality.”
Today’s executive order terminates the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force that was established in 2010 and transitions its tasks to the recently created Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. The Task Force was comprised of representatives from the five gulf states, 11 federal agencies and White House officials and was charged with developing a long-term restoration strategy for the Gulf Coast. In July 2012, the President signed into law the RESTORE Act, which established the new Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which will build on the work begun by the Task Force.
The executive order also stresses the importance of coordination among members of the Gulf Restoration Council, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) trustees and other federal entities involved in Gulf Coast restoration. The order states that these entities “shall work closely with one another to advance their common goals, reduce duplication, and maximize consistency among their efforts.” The groups recognize that improving efficiency among the federal agencies is vital to gulf restoration.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack were named in the order as additional trustees for the gulf oil spill’s NRDA process. NRDA trustees are charged with addressing ecosystem injury in the gulf resulting from the 2010 oil spill, as well as selecting restoration projects for the region.
“We now look to BP to stop stalling, pay its fines and make the gulf whole,” the groups concluded.

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