A short up-to-date guide for citizen activists and other heroes who love the Gulf of Mexico

tarball expressI wish to commend you on your continuing work on behalf of the people still being affected by the 2010 BP Oil Catastrophe. As you know, on a daily basis the lifeless corpses of birds, fish, turtles and dolphins wash up at some 10 times the usual mortality rate. Thick, black, sticky, toxic oil continues to come in, often accompanied by a bubbly, peanut butter colored dispersant/oil cocktail.
Our fishermen are not being paid fairly, if at all. Many are literally hungry, and even more have had to face the devastation of losing either, or both, their business and their home.
Our oil workers are no more safe now than they were on April 19, 2010, as there has been no definitive legislation to protect them, let alone to provide a safety net for the family of those who will continue to be injured or lose their lives, providing drug to an addicted nation.

While BP pays trillions to the national corporate media to blatantly lie, and tell you that they are, “making it right,” we have at least 2,400 confirmed cases of petro-chemically poisoned men, women and children - unfortunately, that number grows every single day.

Photo: The Tarball Express, a FEMA-trailer-turned-traveling-billboard, reads, "Hey America!  Gulf Coast families, workers, and eco-systems still BPeed on."

Below is a listing of important information concerning the continuing need here. We at Gulf Change ask that, as much as you are able, you continue to take action on our behalf for your and our combined future.
H.R. 3562 - BAN TOXIC DISPERSANT ACT OF 2011 - “To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act with respect to the use of dispersants..”
Please support this bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-NY) and Rep. Raul Greave (D-AZ) - Please call and thank them, and further pledge your support of their efforts.
The bill has been referred to 2 committees:
- The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, whose chairman is John L. Mica (R-FL). Other members of that committee can be found here: http://transportation.house.gov/singlepages.aspx/763
- House Energy and Commerce Committee, chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). Other members can be found here: http://energycommerce.house.gov/about/members.shtml

We ask that you contact as many of these committee members as possible, expressing your support of this bill. An official outreach initiative for this will begin soon, but for now we appreciate the early start.
S. 1400 THE RESTORE THE GULF COAST ACT - A quick fact sheet produced by the Audubon Society can be found here: http://gulfoilspill.audubon.org/sites/default/files/documents/restore_act_fact_sheet.pdf.  Basically, BP is expected to be fined penalities for violating the Clean Water Act, and this bill would dedicate 80% of those fines to the Gulf Coast for recovery and restoration, through establishing the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund. The summary for the Act can be found here http://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/11714_RESTORE-Act-Summary-April2011.pdf.

In addition to the above links, the collaborative efforts hosted by the Waterkeeper Alliance’s Save Our Gulf can be found here: http://saveourgulf.org/updates/restore-gulf-coast-bill-introduced
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D, LA) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), with co-signers Senators David Vitter (R-LA), Jeff Sessions (R-LA) and Bill Nelson (D-FL).

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the bill in September 2011, setting the stage for a Senate vote, although to date the bill seems to be just sitting in wait.

We ask that you support this important possible piece of legislation. We recommend Gulf Restoration Network’s call to do just that, which you can find through their website: http://healthygulf.org/
A REGIONAL CITIZEN’S ADVISORY COUNCIL was not included in the Restore Act, but we feel it is essential to have regional oversight of the fossil fuel industry and it’s obvious impacts upon our waters and people. We are dismayed that within 3 months of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the people of Alaska had such a committee in place - funded by the industry - while over 16 months after the worst environmental disaster in American history, we do not.
HEALTH ISSUES - As you know, many have found themselves facing health related issues stemming from the continued use of toxic dispersants in the Gulf. Recently Gulf Change initiated a week long event calling for a heroic effort on behalf of the children and families of those now suffering. The link to that event can be found here http://www.facebook.com/events/152202938227331/.
A great new video was produced by the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), that highlights the need for immediate intervention concerning the future health of these children. Please continue to share the video, specific suggestions can be found on the above event page. The video can be found here http://bridgethegulfproject.org/node/547.

A Care2 petition, sponsored by Gulf Change, calling for a congressional hearing concerning the health affects from the catastrophe can be found here http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/hold-a-congressional-hearing-concerning-the-continuing-health-affects-from-the-bp-deep-water-oil/.  We ask that you please sign and share widely.

BP MEDIA ASSAULT - As you know BP continues their fibbing campaign concerning the situation. Responding to the cacophony of misinformation constantly being released into the national conscience may well be one of the most important aspects of current need.
We recommend Bridge the Gulf as an accurate depiction of the voices of those who continue to be devastated by this event; such as “For The Love of My Home,” (found here http://bridgethegulfproject.org/node/550) written by Kathleen M. Walker-Gordon, a member of a historic Alabama fishing family.
Other great sources of information include the work of Rocky Kistner and the NRDC, Dahr Jamal and Aljazeera English,  and the Huffington Post, (Check out this piece by Ivan T. Thornton, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ivan-t-thornton/bp-oil-spill-fund_b_1216765.html)/)

Counteracting misleading, or down right libelous information, is the fist step in combating the BP PR machine.  Please continue to share and educate through your preferred means of communication.
For those of you who wish to join us in going farther in an attempt to firmly place the injustice of our situation in the court of public opinion, we ask that whenever you see a faulty report, please contact the writer and the vehicle of that writing (e.g. The New York Times), directly with relative truthful information.

For instance, if you were to run across a BP promoted article touting the cleanliness of the ecosystem, you might use one of the following options as a defense using this link http://blog.al.com/live/2012/01/bp_crews_still_busy_in_alabama.html, which explains that 3 tons of tar balls were found on the beaches of MS and AL in the early part of January 2012.

1.) Paste the link with your view in the comment section of the article itself.

2.) Send an email with your opinion and the informative link to the author.

3.) Send a letter to the editor explaining the reality of the situation.

4.) Research the other advertisers in that source and write them a letter explaining how you find it hard to buy from a company who associates itself with a faulty news source that acts upon the whim and money of a foreign corporation that is responsible for the devastation now being faced on America’s Gulf Coast.

5.) Add your own idea here.
Also, we ask that you praise and support well written and reality based articles and their sources;  and more so, Gulf based citizen journalists and bloggers.
Remember: Although BP has deep pockets, and we do not, with a definitive grass-roots orchestration, there is little doubt that the tide of ignorance can be overturned. It is just going to take team work and commitment.
THE TRIAL OF THE CENTURY - February 27, 2012 marks the beginning of what, some folks say, may be a year long trial concerning the disaster, which will be covered to some extent by media all over the world.
The case, which will take place in New Orleans in the courtroom of federal judge Carl Barbier, will be divided along 3 phases.
- Phase 1 will consist of the accident itself, with regards to who is to blame, BP, Halliburton, Transocean or others?
- Phase 2 addresses the spill, including the volume leaked.
- Phase 3 covers damages to ecosystem and civil penalties. It is imperative to the cause that there is a large and demanding roar of public outcry prior to this last phase of the trial. We must make it known that we will not allow BP off the hook. The truth in our only weapon, we must yield it unsparingly.
Judgment for all three phases will not be announced until the end of Phase 3, which has been speculated to be followed by a broad range of appeals.
There has been rumors of a settlement offered by BP for some ridiculous amount. WE MUST NOT LET THAT HAPPEN. It is in the discovery phase of any trial that the truth comes out. We must make it known that we want to see our day in court. If there is any hope of judiciary justice for those who have been affected, BP, (and others), must face inquiry and consequences regarding their actions to date.
Lastly, we would like to share that we stand in full support of THE BLUE BULB PROJECT. The initiative begun by Paul Grogan, “is a way for activists and non-activists to unite and show support of clean water and blue skies.” Participants are asked to put a blue light or blue ribbon in front of their homes or on their person, to remind others that the disaster is not over, and to show your support of America‘s Gulf Coast.
That‘s all for now, but we do ask that you remember that we did not vote to become the sacrifice zone for energy production in the United States. We did not ask for 11 of our brothers to be taken from us, and 17 more horribly injured. We never sought to invest in a system that values the profit of a few, over the lives of any. And we will continue to seek justice for our people, our ecosystem and our unique combination of cultures.
Above all, we would like you to know that we value you as heroes to your people, this is your coast too, no matter where you live. And we wish to thank you for keeping the Coast in your prayers, and thoughts; and most importantly, on your lips and by the service of your hands.
Thank you, very, very much, we are humbled by your continuing commitment.

Cherri Foytlin is an oil worker's wife, mother of six, Louisiana resident and journalist whose family has been deeply impacted by the BP Oil Disaster and consequential moratorium on deep water drilling. She co-founded Gulf Change, blogs for www.BridgeTheGulfProject.org, and walked to Washington D.C. from New Orleans (1,243 miles) to call for action to stop the BP oil disaster.  She has been a constant voice, speaking out to the Obama Administration's Gulf Oil Spill Commission, and in countless forms of media.  Cherri will continue her fight for the industries, people, culture and wildlife of south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast "until we are made whole again."