President Obama to Make Gulf Disaster and Energy Focus

Conservation leaders urge Obama to include wildlife among those harmed and to designate habitat restoration as the appropriate form of compensation.

06-15-2010 // Aileo Weinmann
White house

In President Obama’s first televised Oval Office speech tonight, he is expected to announce several concrete steps aimed at restoring the Gulf economy and environment while reining in the U.S.’ oil addiction. One point Obama is expected to discuss is the creation of an escrow account to compensate individuals and businesses harmed by the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. National Wildlife Federation and other conservation groups today sent a letter to President Obama, calling for habitat restoration investments within the escrow account.

“As conservation leaders we write today to urge you to include wildlife among those harmed and to designate habitat restoration as the appropriate form of compensation. In addition to making whole the fishing, tourism, outdoor recreation, and other interests whose livelihoods have been decimated by the disaster, we must look to the eventual recovery of the coastal wetlands that support Louisiana’s productive fisheries, abundant birdlife, and diverse wildlife communities.

In the letter, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, and Environmental Defense Fund called for about one-quarter of the escrow account to serve as a down payment for restoring lost habitats that support Gulf livelihoods. “We believe a minimum $5 billion of the proposed $20 billion escrow fund should be set aside to support the immediate launch of large-scale restoration efforts.”

“Despite BP’s public claims, when oil infiltrates sensitive coastal marshlands, it really can’t be cleaned up,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of National Wildlife Federation. “That’s why investments to rebuild the lost wetlands are critical to rebuilding healthy and prosperous Gulf coast communities.”

In anticipation of Obama's speech, Mr. Schweiger issued the following statement:

“As President Obama has seen firsthand, the Gulf disaster reflects the failed energy policies of the past. The painful images we are witnessing make clear that America can no longer delay comprehensive energy reforms. It is imperative that the Senate move comprehensive climate and energy legislation this summer that caps the carbon gusher of America’s current energy policy, weans the nation off of oil, and creates millions of homegrown clean energy jobs that make the U.S. the world’s clean energy leader.”

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