Oil and tar balls are seen on the Gulf Coast in May 2010. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

Obama announces new head of Gulf oil spill restoration council

President Obama announced this week that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been appointed to succeed Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker as the next chair of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.

The White House announced the rotation after the council has made progress in responding to the Deepwater Horizon spill, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

“I am proud of our collective accomplishments during my tenure as the council’s chairperson and I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Vilsack as he assumes this role,” said Pritzker.

President Barack Obama is briefed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during a meeting in the Oval Office. (Pete Souza/Special to The Pulse)
President Barack Obama is briefed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during a meeting in the Oval Office. (Pete Souza/Special to The Pulse)

This transition builds upon the actions that the Council has made since its establishment in July 2012 in response to the oil spill. With an approved Initial Funded Priorities List that invests and prioritizes $183 million in restoration projects, the Council has said it will pivot its attention to developing the next iteration of the Comprehensive Plan and begin to prioritize projects to receive funding from BP settlement funds.

The council works to develop and implement a comprehensive plan in an effort to help restore the ecosystems and economies of the Gulf Coast states.

“As Chair, USDA looks forward to continuing to work in partnership with the states and other federal agencies on the Restore Council to restore the Gulf coast region and its magnificent natural resources for the benefit of the people who depend upon it and all Americans,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

The RESTORE Council is a unique federal-state partnership that brings together a diverse set of expertise and resources from its 11 members. Rotating the chairmanship further strengthens this collaboration to effectively serve the Gulf communities for the next two decades. We anticipate that the Chairmanship will rotate several times over the life of the Council. Commerce will continue to play a key role as a member and remains committed to supporting Gulf restoration efforts with its coastal restoration and economic expertise.

Since 2009, the Administration has developed a long-term strategy and inclusive framework to address the coastal resilience needs of the Gulf Coast region; brought federal, state, and local government together to better align decision-making and resources; and secured unprecedented settlement with BP to ensure the Gulf coast communities will have the resources needed to make significant progress toward restoring ecosystems, economies, and businesses in the region over the next 20 years.