Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman: “This Earth Day, our government must take concrete and sensible steps to respond to the needs of those suffering and pave the way the way to a clean and sustainable future in the Gulf.”
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Washington, D.C., April 22, 2012 – In honor of the 42nd annual Earth Day and marking two years after the devastating BP oil rig explosion and spill, Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman, Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
On this Earth Day, we rededicate ourselves to healing the world around us – a process that must begin with confronting our nation’s failure to protect and heal the people and communities that have suffered from environmental degradation.
When the Commission on Social Action travelled to New Orleans in October 2010, we witnessed the tremendous destruction caused by the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the far-reaching devastation caused by 5 million tons of oil gushing into the Gulf. Not only were 11 lives tragically lost in that explosion, but thousands more were directly impacted by the polluted waters, beaches, and sea life that remain central to the Gulf’s cultural and economic identity.
In Midrash we are told “Take care, lest you spoil and destroy my world, because if you do, there is no one after you to make it right again” (Kohelet Rabbah 7:13). The Reform Movement, called to care both for God’s creation and for people in need, was inspired to respond immediately to the disaster -- and we called on our political leaders to do the same.
Today, the Commission on Social Action meets again. We are deeply saddened by Congress’ failure to pass legislation to comprehensively address these issues, despite sound recommendations put forth by the presidential panel on the oil spill. The RESTORE Act, a bill that would dedicate 80% of any future Clean Water Act penalties directly to Gulf restoration efforts, remains hostage to partisan gridlock while restoration efforts increasingly rise in cost. We are further disappointed by Congress’ failure to adopt vital regulatory reforms such as higher standards for rig safety and well design, leaving these voluntary improvements vulnerable to political whims or dismantling.
Welcome safety and regulatory improvements for oil drilling have been made – but progress in healing the contaminated land and water, poisoned plant and animal life, and struggling families of the Gulf has been too slow. This Earth Day, our government must take concrete and sensible steps to respond to the needs of those suffering and pave the way the way to a clean and sustainable future in the Gulf.