Gulf Region Voters Far More Likely to Vote for Legislators Who Support Gulf Restoration Funding
According to a poll
released last week (September 29), nearly three out of four voters (72%) in Gulf region states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas) say they’d be more likely to vote for federal legislators if they support funding to restore the environmental health of the Gulf. The poll was conducted by Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners and GOP polling firm Bellwether Research and Consulting. It found that – regardless of political affiliation – voters from across the Gulf region have a deep commitment to restoration and see it as key to the economic health of the region.
The poll is timely because the day before it was released, a working group named by President Obama to create a long-term Gulf recovery plan – headed by Navy Secretary and former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus – recommended that a “significant amount” of the penalties collected from BP for this summer’s oil spill should be dedicated to repairing the region’s ecological, economic, public health and psychological damage. And while the U.S. House of Representatives has passed an oil spill response bill that directs funding to Gulf Coast restoration, the Senate – even with the elections fast approaching – has yet to act on oil spill response legislation.
“This poll shows Gulf Coast senators that restoring the environmental health of the Gulf’s wetlands, marine and coastal areas is both good public policy and good politics,” said Paul Harrison, senior director for the Mississippi River and the East Coast for Environmental Defense Fund. “Gulf Coast voters recognize that it is critical to their economic future, especially for the region’s huge fishing and tourism industries.”
Additional key poll results include:
· More than three out of five voters (62%) in Gulf Coast states say they are less likely to vote for federal legislators who do not support funding Gulf restoration.
· Nearly nine out of 10 poll respondents (87%) agree that the environmental health of the Gulf Coast region affects their state’s economy very much or somewhat.
· Nearly eight out of 10 poll respondents (78%) 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.
The poll was funded by the Walton Family Foundation on behalf of a coalition of environmental, business, fishing, and anti-poverty groups dedicated to restoring the Gulf Coast. More information can be found in the coalition’s press release.
Mabus Report Delivers on 1st Part of President’s Promise to Make Gulf Better than Before BP Oil Disaster
As noted in the previous story, last week (September 28), the Administration released a new report, “America’s Gulf Coast: A Long Term Recovery Plan after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
," detailing a long-term environmental restoration plan for the Gulf Coast. The report was presented in New Orleans by Navy Secretary and former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus, who was appointed by President Obama to lead the team developing the plan. The report urges Congress to create a Gulf Coast Recovery Fund – managed by a council including federal, state, local and tribal representatives – and funded with a “significant amount” of BP fine money.
As a first step in the restoration plan, on Tuesday (October 5) the President signed an executive order creating the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, led by Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa P. Jackson, a New Orleans native. Moving forward quickly with a robust task force is necessary to move forward already-authorized projects, ensure that congressional appropriations are put in place, and that the full scope of needed restoration projects is designed and implemented.
In releasing this important report, Secretary Mabus is doing his part to fulfill President Obama’s promise to create a long-term plan to restore the Gulf Coast and make it better than it was before the BP oil disaster. Now it is up to President Obama and Congress to act this year to ensure that the fines paid by BP under existing law are directed to restoring the Gulf, and that the new penalties for the BP oil spill – and future spills – included in House legislation become law.
The Well Is Dead, But Our Work Is Not Done
National Audubon Society
Admiral Thad Allen’s declaration on September 19 that BP’s Macondo well was at last “effectively dead” – cemented shut and deemed to pose no further risk – marked the end of another chapter in the ongoing and unprecedented Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.
However, the collective sigh of relief hadn’t even fully passed our lips before we wondered, “What now?”
Despite the many profound and unsettling uncertainties that remain, we do know some things for sure.
We do know that oil persists in the water, on the seafloor, on beaches and in marshes. The cleanup isn’t finished, and BP must remove as much oil as possible without causing further harm, even as government agencies, scientists and environmental groups continue assessing impacts and threats and planning toward restoration through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, the newly created Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and other mechanisms.
We do know that we need action from Congress to approve restoration funding for the Gulf of Mexico ecosystems, including the disintegrating Mississippi River Delta. Addressing the nation’s biggest maritime oil disaster was just one of a long list of urgent national needs the Senate failed to address before adjourning last week. This situation must change.
And we know that a catastrophic event like the BP blowout must never happen again. “It must never again be acceptable to perform a massive chemical experiment on our gulf or ocean waters and the living resources within,” Audubon’s Director of Bird Conservation in Louisiana, Melanie Driscoll, testified at an August hearing before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement officials and oil industry leaders. “You must enforce and respect strong regulations, you must create and field test effective technologies…for all our sakes.”
Big Branch Marsh Restoration Project Receives National Attention
The Big Branch Marsh Restoration Project is a two-week event organized by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL), to replant marsh vegetation and rebuild wildlife habitat in the
Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge
on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain in Lacombe, La. During the course of the project, more than 700 volunteers will plant over 70,000 plugs of smooth and marshhay cordgrass, helping stabilize the soil and encouraging natural marsh regeneration. The Big Branch Marsh restoration project is being completed through a partnership between CRCL, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Community Based Restoration Program, Restore America’s Estuaries, For the Bayou, The Lang Foundation, The Coastal Society and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
On Saturday September 25, the volunteers working at Big Branch Marsh received a special surprise visit. In celebration of National Public Lands Day, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stopped by Big Branch Marsh to participate in the marsh replanting efforts. A few days later on September 29, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Jane Lubchenco visited the site
to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the Restoration Partnership between NOAA, Restore America’s Estuaries and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. Both visits have demonstrated the national significance of this region and urgent need for coastal restoration, especially after the BP Gulf oil spill.
The Big Branch Marsh Restoration Planting Project continues through this Saturday (October 9).
Meet Chris Canfield
Chris Canfield became the National Audubon Society’s vice president for Gulf of Mexico conservation and restoration in September 2010. Chris grew up in Louisiana and Alabama and says he’s excited to return home. Until September, he was Executive Director of Audubon North Carolina, a National Audubon Society program he led for more than a decade.
Before joining Audubon, Chris worked as a development and communications director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as a U.S. Air Force officer in the Pentagon, and as a screenwriter in Hollywood, Calif., where he met his wife Kate Finlayson, an actress-turned-environmental educator. The pair are birders, and Chris is a trained bird bander. Chris did his undergraduate work at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama and graduate work at the University of Oxford in England, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.
Reflecting on his new post, Chris writes: “During the early days of the oil disaster, I wondered what I could do to make a difference. Not long after, the universe called my bluff with an unforeseen request offering me this role in the Gulf. My wife (who's originally from east Texas) and I see this as a calling to return to our home and help restore the landscapes and communities that mean so much to us.”