BP money: Coast needs rebuilding
Unless Congress acts, the millions of dollars collected in fines from the Gulf oil spill won’t go to the areas devastated by the disaster. Instead, it will be set aside for future oil spills or just spent.
Meanwhile, the Gulf is still hurting from the damage.
Much of the ongoing problems are due to the so-called “black duck syndrome.”
That’s the image of animals being pulled from the goo that coated beaches in the region, including turtles, crabs, fish and, yes, ducks. The post-spill images linger in the public’s mind, discouraging tourism and purchases of Gulf seafood.
Tourism officials were hopeful that Memorial Day weekend crowds would return.
Taryn Sammons, media relations manager for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, said earlier this month that she hoped the Coast’s pristine beaches would be a lure.
“Our beaches here weren’t as affected as much as a lot of other cities along the Gulf Coast,” she said. “I think it was more of a media perception that people thought our beaches were covered in oil, but they weren’t.”
Tourism has been down as much as half in the region, and the seafood industry, despite a clean bill of health, has been devastated.
Fact is, the entire region is suffering from a series of knock-out punches one after another, from the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, to the worst U.S. economic downturn since the Great Depression in 2008, to the worst oil spill in history with the Deepwater Horizon’s oil spill last spring.
The oil spill alone would have created an economic tsunami for the region, but combined, it was amplified and deepened.
That’s why, it’s imperative that the funds made available from the disaster be directed to the worst-hit areas: to help the region get back on its feet.
Gulf Future, a coalition formed after the spill, is pressing lawmakers to send the region 80 percent of spill-related fines levied against BP and is making progress.
The U.S. House seems divided over goals and allocations for states with three bills. The Senate seems intent on creating a compromise that would balance economic and environmental remediation.
This is not a time for regionalism or factionalism. The fine money should go to the areas impacted by the spill where it is needed now.