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Neglected Environment 

President Obama slights Gulf Coast in State of the Union address

  In his State of the Union address last week, President Barack Obama pledged to cut Big Oil subsidies and to invest in clean energy. But the Gulf Coast and the BP oil disaster — which he called the worst environmental disaster in the U.S. just last summer — weren't brought up (see "State of the Coast," p. 7).

  Environmentalists we contacted said they expected at least a mention of the Gulf Coast. National Resource Defense Council executive director Peter Lehner said in a pre-address statement, "No review of 2010 can overlook one of the worst environmental disasters of our time. ... This was a national wake-up call to break our costly and dangerous dependence on oil and move faster toward cleaner, safer, more sustainable sources of energy."

  In response to Obama's address, Gulf Restoration Network campaign director Aaron Viles wrote a blog entry asking, "How does the worst oil spill in U.S. history, which occurred just (nine) months ago, fail to secure a mention?"

  "What's going on down here clearly doesn't mesh with presenting a shiny vision of the future," Viles told Gambit. "The oil is still here in these communities still being affected. ... I realize you can't touch on everything, but due to the unprecedented nature of the disaster, it does seem odd it wasn't mentioned."

  Heather Emmert, Gulf States field organizer for Environment America, commended Obama's demands for clean energy sources and for pledging to cut Big Oil subsidies — but she says Obama should have addressed the disaster. "It's a shame he didn't specifically bring it up," she said, adding that instead Obama showed the country "a sign that it's over."

  "This issue (is) unfortunately in the nation's rear-view mirror, nine months out, and the president could have focused on that need for an ongoing federal commitment to the restoration of this ecosystem and these communities," Viles said. "It was an unfortunate opportunity that was missed." — Alex Woodward

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