Now that we've entered the home stretch of the 2012 Presidential Election cycle, it's time to see where the candidates stand on issues of relevance to the Gulf Coast. We all know hurricanes have done tremendous damage to the region, and that damage was only compounded by the effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Let's see what the candidates have said, and done, about Gulf Coast recovery and offshore drilling in the Gulf (spoiler alert… not much).
- Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have made it clear that they support the continuation and expansion of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, President Obama issued a moratorium on deepwater drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the moratorium was lifted just a few months after the disaster, and since then Obama has worked to expand drilling in the Gulf. In November of 2011, Obama outlined his plan to expand drilling. A few months later, his administration authorized the leasing of 38 million acres of the Gulf for drilling and exploration.
- Mitt Romney has been a frequent critic of the President's energy policy, including the moratorium issued after the oil spill. While Obama has increased the amount of offshore drilling that is allowed in the Gulf, Romney does not think he has gone far enough. Romney's energy plan would expand the deep water drilling practices that are prevalent in the Gulf to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well. Romney says that this would create jobs and lower the price of energy.
- On September 10, 2012, President Obama signed an Executive Order that set up the Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Council to oversee the restoration efforts that were funded by the RESTORE Act. The RESTORE Act, which President Obama signed, mandates that 80% of the Clean Water Act fines paid by the perpetrators of the oil spill go toward restoration efforts in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
- Following Hurricane Katrina, one of the biggest frustrations was the inadequate response of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.) When asked if Federal funds for disaster relief should be cut in a Republican primary debate, Governor Romney said, “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction." Under both candidates the FEMA budget would likely be cut. According to one analysis, Obama has proposed a 3 percent drop in disaster relief funds and a 14 percent cut for the agency overall. Under the Ryan budget, federal spending for discretionary programs like FEMA would be axed by around 40 percent.
Beyond that, there has been very little discussion of anything Gulf-related in the campaign. Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama made trips down to the region in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, and both of them said or did nothing of substance while there. It appears that, more than seven years after Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast region is not a presidential priority.