August 2010

Crossposted from NRDC Switchboard.

Yesterday, on a stormy, rain-splattered Sunday, fishermen and their families from four Gulf Coast states drove to Captain Anderson’s Marina in Panama City, FL. It was the same day the Panama City News Herald front page featured a huge photo of President Obama swimming happily with his daughter in the nearby Gulf. “Dive in, Mr. President,” the headline screamed.

This message comes from Delores Suarez, a citizen advocate working with fishermen on the Gulf Coast. In her message she refers to: Dr. William (Bill)  Walker, Director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Mark Stewart, Mississippi fisherman, Richard Gollott, Mississippi's Department of Marine Resources commissioner for the commercial seafood industry, and Linda St. Martin, former Shrimp boat owner working with the Sierra Club.

I was listening to kpft in Houston and heard this great talk on TUC Radio with Julia Whitty.  I've been particularly concerned with the discussion on what the short and long term environmental impacts of the bp drilling disaster are going to look like.  Much of the media has been reporting that most of the oil is gone.

Crossposted from NRDC Switchboard.

Down a winding road that hugs the water of Bayou La Batre in southern Alabama, out-of-work shrimp boats float quietly along the piers. Near the end of the road, the Alabama state dock houses a dozen twin-engine, steel-hulled boats that BP has under contract to do oil cleanup work. Police cars guard the entrance.  

This Op-Ed was published in the Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald on July 30, 2010.

It is only fair that Gulf Coast residents should get the same chance to shape the future of oil and gas development in our region that Alaskans did following the Exxon Valdez spill. Unfortunately, citizens’ councils that have proved effective in guiding responsible development in Alaska are not part of a Gulf of Mexico drilling bill now before Congress. They should be.

Despite the media frenzy that Hurricane Katrina brought to the Gulf Coast, many communities in the region felt that they were either misunderstood or overlooked. That invisibility translated into a failed recovery in many communities where citizens are still without basic needs, including permanent, affordable housing. We are determined that the communities most effected by the BP disaster will be heard and that we will not repeat the mistakes of the past. Bridge the Gulf is an important tool that we intend to use wisely and creatively in this movement for self-determination.

Like most Gulf state Department heads, Dr. William Walker of the Mississippi Dept of Marine Resources is a virtual "one man gang." Until and unless the eminent Haley Barbour himself calls up to weigh in, Walker answers to no one.

When asked at a recent public forum by US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to tell the audience which exact body or group of people in Mississippi had considered public health and safety in ruling to re-open State waters and beaches impacted by the now-capped BP Oil gusher - Doctor Walker bellowed from the back of the packed room, "I did!"

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