President Obama and Congress should enact a $4 billion emergency spending bill to limit the damage and recover from the ongoing Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to a Washington-based environmental advocacy group.
Overall, the government should undertake a five-point plan to deal with the unfolding disaster lapping at the Louisiana coast, caused by an explosion at an offshore oil rig, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) says in a statement.
“The Obama administration is doing everything in its power to contain this spill, but history indicates that it is likely to be weeks before the spill ends. In the meantime, we face mass destruction of the wetlands that harbor hundreds of wildlife species and protect two million local residents from deadly hurricanes,” says Paul Harrison, senior director for the Mississippi River and East Coast at the EDF Center for Rivers and Deltas. “In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has confirmed that the oil spill toxins are a threat to the grasses that keep the sediment from the Mississippi River Delta — which replenishes and rebuilds the wetlands — from washing away into the sea. The stakes couldn’t be much higher: coastal Louisiana plays a critical role in the nation’s economy, fishing industry and wildlife support system.”
EDF urges Obama and Congress to:
- Conduct a massive intervention — suitable in scale for a potentially unprecedented environmental disaster — to stop the oil from flowing and to prevent as much of it as possible from reaching shore.
- Design a sustained, long-term clean-up program that is science-based and that reflects the extremely fragile nature of the wetlands.
- Provide economic assistance to fishermen and others whose livelihoods will suffer from the spill.
- Put in place a continuing program of scientific research and monitoring to track and assess the short-and long-term effects of the spill and of the clean-up.
- Prepare an emergency supplemental appropriations bill to provide $4 billion to restore hundreds of square miles of fragile wetlands in coastal Louisiana — including the accelerated development of five projects already authorized by Congress — and employ a new Mississippi River management system to re-build coastal wetlands.
The area affected by the massive oil spill produces the largest total seafood landings in the lower 48 states, is a vital wintering or resting spot for more than 70 percent of the nation’s waterfowl, used by all 110 neo-tropical migratory songbirds, and produces 50 percent of the nation’s wild shrimp crop, 35 percent of its blue claw crabs and 40 percent of its oysters, EDF says, citing reports by the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
“This disaster is another reminder that America must transition to a clean energy future, which we can accelerate by enacting a strong clean energy and climate bill into law,” says Elgie Holstein, senior director for strategic planning for EDF’s Land, Water and Wildlife Program, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Energy and former assistant secretary at NOAA. “In addition, the climate bill could provide a source of revenue for coastal protection and restoration.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.