Time to RESTORE the Gulf

July 25th, 2011 | Uncategorized |

(originally posted on the RACblog)
by Rachel Cohen

I’ve heard the axiom around Washington that when disaster strikes, Congress responds. But in the case of the BP Gulf oil spill, the worst environmental disaster of our time, this axiom has failed – until now. Still, advocates and activists have not given up, and momentum is building behind legislation crucial for the Gulf and our national energy and environmental future. This week is the time to speak out and urge Congress to invest in restoring the Gulf, empower citizens and community leaders to work effectively with oil and gas companies to protect their communities, and enhance health and safety across the offshore drilling industry.

Today you can join advocates from across the Gulf and people of diverse faiths from across the country by making a call for the future of the Gulf. This nationwide call-in day urges the Senate to pass the RESTORE Act, a bill supported by nine Gulf Coast Senators and designed to ensure that the Clean Water Act penalties collected from BP as a result of the spill are invested in Gulf restoration. This legislation would provide a desperately needed infusion of funds for restoring the ecosystems and economy hit hardest by the spill, many of which feed and fuel our nation. Nearly 500 miles of Gulf coastline in four states remains oiled, and the need for restoration is immediate.

Americans understand the importance of the Gulf to our nation; recent polls show that 83 percent of voters nationwide – across geographic and political backgrounds – support investing in damaged Gulf Coast communities and environments, but Congress must act quickly to jump-start this process. Learn why our partners in the evangelical Christian community support RESTORE and see this as an issue of faith and justice, and make the call for the Gulf today.

But RESTORE isn’t everything. The bill does not include a Regional Citizen’s Advisory Council (RCAC), a funded body of citizen stakeholders and community leaders designed to advise the fossil fuel industry, using local knowledge to make drilling safer and prevent future disasters. Two effective Councils were created in Alaska after Exxon-Valdez, and the Gulf needs these bodies to ensure that local stakeholders have a seat at the table as decisions about the fossil fuel future (and their future) are made. As a matter of justice and empowerment for the people of the Gulf, advocates are urging that this critical oversight mechanism be included in Gulf restoration legislation.

While our eyes must remain on the real prize – a clean energy future – today let’s turn to the Gulf, remember the oil spill disaster and 11 lives lost on the Deepwater Horizon, and urge the Senate to get to work restoring the Gulf, preventing future disasters, and empowering citizens and community leaders to shape their own futures.