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Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Remarks on the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, As Prepared

As prepared for delivery.

Today, President Obama signed the Executive Order officially forming the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. He has charged me with leading the national transition from emergency response to coastal recovery. As I said last week, this opportunity is something very special for me – combining my life's passion, a healthy environment for our children and grandchildren, with the opportunity to give something back to the region I still call home.

This effort is still developing. We need to build the staff and infrastructure to fully execute the mandates of the Executive Order. I felt that it was proper to come here and be with all of you in the first hours of the President’s Executive Order. I’m here to share some of my broad themes, and hear your thoughts on putting this new tool to work for the people of the Gulf Coast.

First, let me say a few words about the make-up and the priorities of this Task Force. The Task Force will have representatives from multiple federal agencies and executive offices as well as a representative from each of the states. State and local governments, the private sector, tribes, our scientists, and our citizens will also be counted on for collaboration at all levels. The President has made clear that he wants restoration plans to come from the Gulf to Washington, and not be imposed from Washington onto Gulf residents.

We’re counting on the people who know these areas best to shape our work. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force will align our broad government efforts to address the BP spill and the long decline of our coast. That work will be guided by science, transparency and the rule of law.

We will continue to follow the science, as we have since the earliest days of the response. Scientists like myself, working across our federal team, are eager to do their part. But we will rely on the work of local scientists. Among the first meetings I had during the spill were with scientists from Tulane and LSU. We’re looking for the expertise local experts can bring to the table to complement the resources and human capital on hand through the federal government.

We will operate with the utmost transparency. This must be a thoroughly open process, and one that has the trust of the people most affected. This meeting is a first step – one of many that will keep our work accessible and transparent. A next step will come on November 8th in Florida, when we hold our first public meeting. I encourage everyone here to be part of the coming proceedings and listening sessions – and to hold us accountable to this pledge of transparency.

Finally, we will follow the rule of law. We will use every authority available to us, from the Clean Water Act to the Oil Pollution Act, to hold polluters accountable. But we are also calling on Congress to act. The President will ask Congress for a dedicated source of funds – paid for by civil penalties from the responsible parties, not taxpayers – to support recovery and restoration projects. And let’s be very clear: we need your help to make that happen. You have it in your power to advance this effort right from the start, by demanding that Congress take the necessary steps to help this region. This is an incident that has touched the lives of everyone here, no matter their political affiliations. We expect Congress to act in a bipartisan way to support the people of this community. It is, simply put, the right thing to do.

As someone who grew up here, I know the ecosystem is the key to our future. Our economy, our health and our culture are built on the coastline and the Gulf waters. I know this and the President knows this. We are going to stand with you. Thank you very much.