In Situation Resembling Hurricane Katrina, Gulf Coast Waterkeepers Brace for Impact on America’s Most Fragile Coastal Ecosystems & Fisheries
WATERKEEPERS DEMAND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONTAIN GULF SPILL, STEP UP REGULATORY OVERSIGHT
IRVINGTON, NY – May 3, 2010 – Waterkeeper Alliance, the global environmental organization, today called on the federal government to contain the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill that threatens to destroy the economy and ecosystems of the Gulf Coast. The group and its member organizations on the Gulf demand transparency in the handling of the spill, a stepping up of oversight and enforcement of existing regulations, and the addition of new safeguards that would prevent similar spills from occurring.
“The government is right to use all means at their disposal to contain the economic and environmental destruction of this oil spill, but that’s just not enough,” said Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. “Acoustic regulator technology, required in European waters, could have capped this well when disaster struck and should be required here. Ultimately, as the damage we’ve done in the Gulf shows, we as a nation must move away from our deadly addiction to oil.”
While the allied Waterkeeper groups endorse the response of the federal government to contain the disaster through mechanical means, they are further demanding:
• Full transparency from all public agencies dealing with the spill and its aftermath so that the public is informed about the extent of the spill, the location of the oil slick, anticipated damage, and possible threats to human health;
• The immediate shut down of all drilling platforms in U.S. coastal waters until the completion of a full safety review of the Deepwater Horizon incident;
• An immediate recission of President Obama’s plan to open more offshore areas to drilling;
• And importantly, that the full weight of the law be brought against those responsible for what is turning out to be the worst-ever oil spill in US history.
Waterkeeper Alliance’s Gulf Coast groups – Louisiana’s Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper and Louisiana Bayoukeeper, Alabama’s Mobile Baykeeper, and Florida’s Emerald Coastkeeper – are interacting with agencies to ensure transparency and to track the drifting oil in their localities. Their members and volunteers are also working tirelessly to mitigate the effects of the massive spill on fragile coastal ecosystems and preservation of the public’s health.
“Our volunteers and others are working to provide monitoring in all affected areas, but they need the proper safety gear and training that only the federal government can provide,” said Mobile Baykeeper Casi Callaway. “There is also a need for more federal support to protect human health. We are adamantly opposed to dispersants being used at the well-head as we believe it adds more toxins and less value to the clean up process. Certain dispersants may be useful at the shore/grassbed line, but we can't endorse this action until we know what specific dispersants are to be used!”
The groups, which are now collaborating with their communities up and down the coast to help prevent oil from coming ashore, are seeing a situation that eerily resembles that of Hurricane Katrina. In some cases, response plans are working to a degree, while in others, the federal government is dismissive of the expertise and experience of locals intimately familiar with critically fragile, vulnerable areas.
“45,000 feet of deflection boom has been placed in sensitive habitats in our area; already, several booms have had to be repositioned due to wave action. It is obvious to us locals that this method is not going to effectively keep the oil out of our inland waters,” said Chasidy Hobbs, Emerald Coastkeeper. “Local officials have come up with better solutions, yet their plans seem to be falling on deaf ears. No absorbent booms are being used; according to BP officials in this area, they do not plan use them. This method is proven effective. Why isn't the government requiring that BP use these? There must be more willingness from Unified command centers to work with those who possess extensive knowledge of their home areas.”
Waterkeepers live and work in coastal communities and have seen, firsthand, the devastating effects of oil spills on the livelihood of the area’s fisherman and shrimp boat operators. This spill may prove larger than the Exxon Valdez, and the Gulf Coast Waterkeepers, the Alliance, and its nearly 200 member groups are calling for a change in the way we view fossil fuel.
“It is vital that we protect our coasts and estuaries, but we need to fight disasters like this on a more fundamental level,” said Louisiana Bayoukeeper Tracy Kuhns. “What will it take for us to learn that oil and gas are not worth the long term costs to the environment, communities and the people of the Gulf Coast? Why are we willing to trade sustainable local seafood, tourism and recreation jobs for destructive, polluting ones?” Kuhns added, “Those who are employed to serve the people need to stand up for us, our communities and our natural resources, rather than corporate interests and the environmental and social devastation they have caused.”
The Waterkeepers are also sending a message to local and federal government that the petroleum refining and extraction industries must not line their pockets through the theft of the commons. The groups are mindful that those who make their living on the water, those who use public areas for recreation, and those communities that live and die on the coast, have been irreparably harmed by petroleum industry operations, even before this disaster.
“For too long, the petroleum industry has gotten rich at the expense of coastal wetlands, the environment and our communities. This tragedy is the last straw; we can no longer stand by while big business destroys our way of life for their short term gain,” said Paul Orr, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper. “Louisiana is home to a unique, productive estuary system that provides the nation with almost one third of the commercial seafood harvest in the lower 48 states. This region is the key to several of North America’s most important migratory bird flyways. These estuaries, and the unique culture of South Louisiana that they support, have already suffered greatly at the hands of oil and gas production. This spill will be absolutely devastating to the Gulf.”
The Waterkeepers, national and local, are united in their call for cessation of drilling and pumping fuel until the time when the causes of the Deepwater Horizon spill are recognized and steps have been taken to prevent them.
“While we praise President Obama's decision to suspend all new off-shore drilling, all extraction operations should cease until we identify and rectify the causes of this disaster,” said Scott Edwards, Waterkeeper Alliance’s Advocacy Director. “The administration must also address the deficiencies in our current safety and environmental laws that led to this and previous oil spills -- and implement governmental and regulatory policy changes to better protect our waterways, fisheries and communities in the future.”
Waterkeeper Alliance is a global environmental organization uniting more than 190 Waterkeeper programs around the world and focusing citizen advocacy on the issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. More information can be found at www.waterkeeper.org.
Goodman Media for Waterkeeper Alliance
John Bianchi: (212) 576-2700, ext. 228 / firstname.lastname@example.org