More than two years have passed since the Deepwater Horizon explosion and BP oil spill disaster, which killed 11 men and devastated the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast. We continue to lament lost jobs and economic security, the physical and mental health challenges facing so many of our brothers and sisters across the region, and the toll on wildlife and the environment of the oil and chemical contaminants that still permeate the Gulf. This unprecedented injustice shows yet again the risks of our national fossil fuel addiction, and the dangerous industry behavior designed to feed it.
Since the spill, has been no legislation enacted to protect communities and ecosystems or take steps necessary to prevent future oil disasters. The Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy of the Gulf Coast (RESTORE) Act was introduced by Senators Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R) of Louisiana. The RESTORE Act directs 80% of Clean Water Act fines to Gulf states to “restore the coastal ecosystem and its economies that were damaged by the BP oil spill.” The Act divides the funds among a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund shared among the 5 Gulf states (35%), a Federal-State Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (60%), and Centers of Excellence (5%) focused on key disciplines including wetland restoration and sustainable development.
The oil industry has been free to pollute without penalty for too long, and the future of the Gulf and our entire country is in danger. Now more than ever, we need the leadership of our elected officials in Washington to ensure that Gulf Coast communities and our environment are restored, and that all of us can enjoy a clean and safe energy future.
As Jews we are called from the earliest verses of torah to be good stewards of our resources, including water and energy, and to take care not to spoil our natural world. In the Book of Deuteronomy we learn that “If there is a needy person among you…do note harden your heart and shut your hand against your kin. Rather, you must open your hand and lend whatever is sufficient.” The crisis in the Gulf illustrates our failure to live up to these mandates, but we can take action to care for those most impacted by the spill and ensure that such a disaster does not happen again.
We commemorate this memorial in the midst of Passover, as we celebrate the renewal of spring and mark our redemption from enslavement by the pharaohs of old. Today we seek renewal and freedom from environmental injustice for our brothers and sisters across the region in urging Congress to act to restore the Gulf, protect vulnerable communities and prevent future tragedies.
Join advocates from across the Gulf Coast and across the country to remind Congress that this disaster is not over for the communities and environment of the Gulf. Urge your members of Congress to support the RESTORE Act. The Capitol Switchboard can be reached at 202.224.3121 or you can send an email below. For more information, contact Legislative Assistant Susan Paykin at 202.387.2800.