Just a year ago our nation was dealt a harsh reminder of the connection between the health of our economy and the health of our environment. Millions of residents across the Gulf Coast suffered impacts to their daily lives and livelihoods caused by the environmental devastation resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The spill intensified the decades-long decline of the Gulf's rich and valuable coastal ecosystems upon which these economies depend. Since taking office, this Administration has been working to protect and restore this natural treasure.
By putting in place smarter and stronger standards of safety and responsibility for deepwater drilling, we're working to protect our natural resources from this kind of catastrophic damage. These higher standards will promote safe and responsible offshore oil exploration and production, while reducing our country's reliance on foreign oil, creating jobs for the American people, and ensuring our nation’s energy security.
The President also established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, which includes representatives from Federal agencies and the Gulf Coast states, to coordinate the long-term restoration effort based on input from local scientists, experts, and citizens. He made clear that restoration priorities should be set by the Gulf region for Washington, and not the other way around. At a Task Force meeting last week in Mobile, Alabama, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson launched a citizens' advisory committee to provide residents and local organizations a more effective way to voice their environmental concerns to help guide restoration efforts. Key priorities, developed with input from the public and key stakeholder groups throughout the region, for the ongoing restoration of the Gulf include enhancing community resilience and restoring important coastal habitats.
Visiting the Gulf always reinforces for me the tremendous value of the coastal ecosystems to the economies and livelihood of our nation. The Gulf is the heartbeat of the region's economy, and a lifeline to the economy of the United States. The region handles more water-borne commerce than any other place in the country, and is home to the largest commercial fishery in the contiguous United States. It is also a tourism powerhouse, and helps shape the many unique cultures of the communities in that part of the country. And of course, the bayous, barrier islands, bays and estuaries that dominate the region provide critical protections to communities that are devastatingly vulnerable to hurricanes.
We will continue to bring together Federal agencies, states, and local communities to ensure a smart, forward-looking, and comprehensive restoration strategy that responds to the priorities of Gulf residents. We are committed to bringing the Gulf back better than it was before, and to restoring the coast in ways that enhance the livelihood and quality of life for our communities and for our economy.
Nancy Sutley is Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality