Twenty days ago, President Obama, by executive order, established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force to lead and coordinate the Gulf’s clean-up following the summer’s BP oil spill. This week, John Hankinson Jr., a Florida native whose land and environmental consulting office is in Marineland, was named executive director of the task force.
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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, whom Obama named chairwoman of the task force, made the appointment. Hankinson served as the EPA’s southern region administrator during the Clinton administration. He currently serves as an environment and conservation lands consultant, advising on land conservation, strategic land use decision-making, and constructive environmental management and policy projects across the Southeastern United States.
Hankinson will be in charge of the day to day business of a panel that includes representatives from almost every cabinet-level federal agency, including the departments of defense, justice, interior, agriculture, commerce, the Office of Management and Budget and the EPA, among others, plus representatives from five Gulf states, including Florida, appointed by the president.
From 1988 to 1993, Hankinson headed the Planning and Acquisition Department of the St. Johns River Water Management district and served as director of Coastal and Land Use Programs for the Legal Environment Assistance Foundation in Tallahassee and as senior policy analyst during Gov. Bob Graham’s administration.
“I spent my childhood on the gulf and I am proud and honored to have the opportunity to carry out the president’s commitment to restoring this vital ecosystem,” Hankinson said. “I look forward to hearing from everyone in the gulf coast – from community groups to businesses to scientists – as we go about restoring a national treasure that also happens to be an economic engine for the entire region.”
Watch Hankinson in a June Interview With FlaglerLive on the Oil Spill[media id=55 width=350 height=250]
Hankinson spent 30 years working on environmental issues in the private, public and non-profit sectors. The Florida native brought together industry, government and various interest groups to form partnerships to restore ecosystems across the southeast. He worked on the National Estuary Program in the Gulf of Mexico and directed the development and implementation of a water quality protection plan for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. He has over 10 years experience overseeing the restoration and protection of the St. Johns River system.
“We’re pleased that John has accepted this responsibility and is willing once again to step up and serve the people of the gulf coast. He will play an instrumental role in fulfilling our commitment to a full and lasting restoration of this area,” Jackson, the EPA administrator, said. “John’s longtime experience with these issues and this region, along with his proven ability to get things done, will be invaluable assets in what is sure to be a long-term, hard-fought battle to restore the waters of the gulf. I have every confidence in him.”
As the executive director of the task force, Hankinson – who will report directly to Jackson – will coordinate interagency efforts, oversee staff and outreach efforts to develop a regional ecosystem restoration strategy and ensure that science underpins the task force’s efforts. Obama in his executive order stressed the science-based approach, ordering the National Science Foundation to serve in an advisory role to the task force.
The task force will also integrate local community interests, representatives from affected tribes, and the scientific and academic communities. The task force will have a presence in each of the gulf states, in addition to Washington, D.C.
Jackson will hold the first meeting of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force on November 8 in Pensacola.