Obama Administration Announces New Chair of Restore Council and Reaffirms Commitment to Gulf Region | USDA Newsroom
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News Release

Release No. 0055.16
USDA, Office of Communications, (202)720-4623
Department of Commerce, Office of Public Affairs, 202-482-4883

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Obama Administration Announces New Chair of Restore Council and Reaffirms Commitment to Gulf Region

WASHINGTON, Mar. 1, 2016 – The Obama Administration announced today that the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council chair position will rotate from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, effective March 2016.

This transition builds upon the significant progress that the Council has made since its establishment in July 2012 in response to the Deepwater Horizon spill. With an approved Initial Funded Priorities List that invests and prioritizes $183 million in restoration projects, the Council 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.

"Over the past three years, the Council has made significant progress toward restoring ecosystems, economies, and businesses in the region," said Secretary Pritzker. "I would like to thank Teresa Christopher and the Commerce team whose leadership and dedication have allowed us to build an organization from the ground up and position the Council for future success. 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. The Administration remains committed to ensuring that the Gulf Coast comes back stronger and more vibrant than ever."

"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. "I want to thank the states for their vote of confidence in USDA and Secretary Pritzker and her team at the Department of Commerce for their leadership as Chair during the first three years of the Council."

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.

Council Accomplishments

Over the past 3 years and under Secretary Pritzker's leadership, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council has:

  • Built an organization from the ground up; going from a start-up to a fully functioning agency within the government;
  • Assembled an integrated team of experts, minimized overhead, and began a coordinated region-wide effort to restore and protect the environment, reinvigorate local economies, and create jobs;
  • Invested and prioritized $183 million in restoration projects that will deliver tangible results – and also establish a foundation for the future;
  • Through deliberative consensus based decision-making among 11 members, established the foundational procedures, processes, allocations and plans needed to rebuild the region's environment, economy, and livelihoods of the Gulf community;
  • Developed the Initial Comprehensive Plan that set 5 overarching goals for restoration;
  • Set up a process for evaluation and selection of projects grounded in science;
  • Established implementing rules and guidelines that allocated and made funds available to State and local governments under the Oil Spill Impact Component; and
  • Worked with thousands of Gulf community members to shape the work of the Council every step of the way.

Background on the Council

In response to the Gulf disaster, the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act) established in July 2012 the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council), which is comprised of governors from the five affected Gulf States, the Secretaries of the Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, the Army, and Homeland Security, as well as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Council is responsible for helping to restore the ecosystems and economies of the Gulf Coast region by developing and overseeing implementation of a Comprehensive Plan and carrying out other responsibilities. Read more about the Comprehensive Plan, the RESTORE Act and the Council at www.RestoreTheGulf.gov.


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