Crude oil is seen on the surface of the water in the Gulf of Mexico near Biloxi, Mississippi on June 12, 2010, as it continues to leak from the British Petroleum underwater well after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. UPI/Casey Ware/U.S. Coast Guard | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- The Obama administration proposes an aggressive restoration effort for the Gulf of Mexico focusing on government funding and involvement, U.S. officials said.
The restoration plan, written by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and submitted to the president Tuesday, includes a recommendation that Congress put a significant amount of any civil penalties obtained from parties responsible for BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill into a Gulf Coast Recovery Fund for addressing long-term recovery and restoration efforts, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a release.
"The plan is the result of listening to the people of the gulf coast," Mabus said. "It balances the needs of the people, the environment and the economic livelihood of the region."
The report recommends that Congress authorize a Gulf Coast Recovery Council to manage the funds and coordinate recovery projects.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign an executive order to establish the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, which would be a bridge to the recovery council, coordinating restoration programs and projects in the gulf region, the EPA said. Obama has named EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson as task force chairwoman once the executive order is issued.
"President Obama has said many times that our commitment to the families and environment in the gulf extends far beyond capping the well," Jackson said. "We're sending that message loud and clear today: Our work is not complete until the people and the environment they rely on are on the path to restoration and recovery."
The Mabus report also recommended support for individuals, families and businesses to help them through the claims process, and the provision of assistance to communities to identify additional needs, among other things.
Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, says tougher regulation is likely to delay resumption of deep water drilling after the end of the federal moratorium. Bromwich testified Monday before a commission investigating the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Houston Chronicle reported.
"Even when the moratorium is lifted, you're not going to see drilling going on the next day or even the next week," Bromwich said. "It is going to take time."
Members of the commission said one of the problems in dealing with the Deepwater Horizon spill was underestimates of how much oil was spewing into the gulf after the explosion on the drilling rig in April. Scientists working for federal agencies originally estimated about 1,000 barrels a day were leaking, while the actual figure turned out to be 50 or 60 times that, ultimately totaling more than 200 million gallons.