WASHINGTON, June 15, 2010 — President Barack Obama in an address to the nation tonight announced that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus will develop a long-term restoration plan for the Gulf Coast.
Calling the April 20 BP oil spill the worst environmental disaster in the nation’s history, Obama said he asked Mabus, the former governor of Mississippi and “a son of the Gulf Coast,” to develop a long-term plan to restore the area.
Such a plan, the president said, will “go beyond responding to the crisis of the moment,” and will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and other Gulf residents.
Obama noted that the region still hasn’t recovered from the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which struck the coast five years ago. “The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that’s already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats,” he said.
“Beyond compensating the people of the Gulf in the short term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region,” he said.
Obama met with servicemembers at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla., earlier today during a tour Gulf Coast states. Tonight, he recognized the military in his first nationwide address on the oil spill. He noted that servicemembers are contributing to the clean up effort by skimming oil, laying booms, sandbagging and building barriers, as well as offering their equipment.
The president recognized Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen for leading the clean-up effort that includes nearly 30,000 personnel working across four states, and thousands of ships and other vessels. Obama also urged the Gulf state governors to activate more National Guard troops among more than 17,000 authorized to help.
“These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil from coming ashore, they’re ready to help clean the beaches, train response workers, or even help with processing claims — and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible,” he said.
Obama announced Mabus’ role as part of a broad effort to continue to clean up, provide long-term restoration to the coast, understand what happened in the spill, hold BP accountable, and reduce America’s demand for oil.
“Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced,” Obama said. “And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it’s not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.”
And, the president added, “The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face. This nation has known hard times before and we will surely know them again. What sees us through -– what has always seen us through –- is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)