Assurances and Platitudes
Louisiana officials accuse BP of abandoning and covering up oil spill
by Kurt Niland
Louisiana state and Plaquemines Parish officials took journalists on a tour of Barataria Bay last week to showcase how oily sludge from BP’s Gulf spill is being covered up and neglected in this and other ecologically sensitive areas of the state’s coastline.
Nearly nine months after BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore platform exploded and sank, oil continues to pass Louisiana’s barrier islands and accumulate in its wetlands and marshes. The affected areas help protect the state from hurricanes and serve as breeding grounds for a spectrum or marine and terrestrial life on which the ecology and economy of Louisiana depends.
But now they are being steadily smothered by thick globs of oil up to 100 feet wide in many places. Worse, all indications suggest the area has been abandoned. Reports from the tour said that no functional boom and no cleanup workers were present. Oil boom that was once put in place to protect the area has been overtaken and buried in oil.
“This is the biggest cover-up in the history of America,” a visibly upset Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser told reporters after removing his oil covered hand from the bay.
Federal officials from the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were also present on the tour, offering assurances and platitudes that only drew further wrath from the state authorities.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Lauer said, “Clearly there is oil here in the marsh but we are working as a team to find a best way to clean it up. It’s a high priority.”
It’s like you’re in bed with BP,” Nungesser responding, yelling at the Coast Guard and NOAA officials. “Don’t tell me I got a voice in the way you put together that crappy document,” Nungesser said, referencing the a federal cleanup proposal. “It ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on. That is bulls…”
Lauer tried to assure Nungesser that he understands his frustration, and promised that cleanup efforts had not been abandoned. “No one has ever said, ‘It’s over, we’re going home,’” Lauer said.
In a statement issued by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Nungesser said “We continue to find oil in different parts of Plaquemines Parish — Redfish Bay, Bay Jimmy, Pass a Loutre — depending on the tides, wind, and thunder storms. We’re concerned about the long-term plan to keep assets in this region to help remove oil and protect the wildlife. This is by no means over and we’re concerned that this is being wrapped up before it is.”
Robert Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, sounded a warning to BP and others that the fight for Louisiana’s fragile coastline is far from over.
“BP and federal officials are ready to close up shop and claim the job is done, leaving the state to clean up the mess,” he added. “We will continue to push for a real resolution, more than just a wait-and-see approach for the miles of Louisiana coastline still oiled. They may have forgotten the impact on our wildlife and our habitat, but we have not.”
BP’s abandonment of cleanup efforts in Louisiana may help Alabama’s case against the oil giant. Alabama attorney general Troy King filed a lawsuit against BP in August, saying that the oil giant couldn’t be trusted to make good on its claims to help the state clean up and recover from the massive oil spill.
King’s lawsuit drew sharp criticism from Governor Bob Riley, a fellow Republican, who called the lawsuit one man’s “brash” and “reckless decision.” Riley had hoped to settle damages mutually with BP.
“We’ve tried it the governor’s way and it did not work,” King said in a statement last August. “Now it is time for him to get out of the way and let us do our job. It is obvious that BP is not dealing in good faith and is using every excuse possible to keep from paying its obligations both to the individuals and businesses with claims as well as to the state.”