USA — Obama Chooses Mabus to Lead Gulf Restoration

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)