EPA chief: Look beyond damage oil to restore Gulf

By Reuters
Posted Nov. 8, 2010 at 4:41 p.m.

The U.S. Gulf region must repair not only the damage from the BP oil spill but also that caused by decades of environmental abuse, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said on Monday.

Jackson spoke in Pensacola, Florida, at the first meeting of the Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Task Force appointed by President Barack Obama to integrate federal, state and local restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.

She urged the 12-member panel to look beyond the impact of the April 20 explosion and subsequent leak from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

“We’re taking one step back and saying what does the Gulf region need to be resilient,” Jackson said.

“You’ve all seen it. It’s not just oil. It’s hypoxia and nutrients in our system that are creating dead zones. It’s just the fact that we have so many people who want to live on the Gulf of Mexico.”

The kick-off meeting was overshadowed by related events in Washington. The White House oil spill commission on Monday found no evidence that the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history happened because BP and its partners cut corners to save money.

The White House panel agreed with nearly all the findings of BP’s internal investigation of the accident that unleashed millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf.

That report assigned much of the blame to its drilling partners, including Transocean Ltd, which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, and Halliburton, which provided the cement used to secure the wellhead and the blowout protectors that failed.

Jackson wouldn’t comment on the panel’s findings and said the ecosystem task force was focusing on the future.

Garret Graves, director of the Louisiana governor’s coastal activities office, said region had seen a steady deterioration of wetlands and coastal environment even before the spill.

“This is the most productive ecosystem in North America — on this continent — right here in the Gulf of Mexico,” Graves told panel members. “The repercussions of the oil spill and the repercussions of the hurricanes are national and international repercussions. Every taxpayer in the country is paying for the loss and degradation of this ecosystem.”

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