Obama forms Gulf oil spill task force with small role for local governments
The Obama administration has created a task force to address the Gulf Coast’s recovery from the British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil spill. However, the Washington-based National Association of Counties (NACo), which created its own task force in August to help counties affected by the spill, is disappointed that Obama’s executive order forming the federal task force gives little guidance for the role of local governments in the recovery.
Obama issued the order creating the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force on Tuesday. The task force would be comprised of representatives from 11 federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Office of Management and Budget, along with five state government representatives.
One of the task force duties would be to communicate and engage with local governments, but that instruction is not sufficient for NACo, says Stephanie Osborn, deputy director for NACo’s County Services Department. “We’re certainly disappointed about the composition of the task force itself,” she says. “[The executive order] does certainly mention outreach and engagement with local governments, but we’re lumped in with other stakeholders in the region, not singled out as having governmental authority and responsibility to the community.”
Osborn is hopeful that when the task force begins meeting, it will have a specific strategy for engaging local governments. Also, NACo still has been unsuccessful in arranging a meeting with the White House to discuss how the federal government can help counties and parishes recover tax revenue and expenses lost as a result of the oil spill, Osborn says. That meeting was a major goal for NACo’s Gulf Counties & Parishes Oil Spill Task Force. “[Last week,] we asked for a meeting with the staff that will be managing the [new federal] task force,” she says. “We don’t have that meeting scheduled yet, either.”
Read Obama’s executive order on the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force.