- ORANGE BEACH, AL -- While
President Obama insists that the federal government is firmly in control
of the response to BP's spill in the Gulf, people in coastal communities
where I visited last week in Louisiana and Alabama know an inconvenient
truth: BP -- not our president -- controls the response. In fact, people
on the ground say things are out of control in the gulf.
- Even worse, as my latest week of adventures illustrate,
BP is using federal agencies to shield itself from public accountability.
- For example, while flying on a small plane from New Orleans
to Orange Beach, the pilot suddenly exclaimed, "Look at that!"
The thin red line marking the federal restrictions of 3000 ft over the
oiled Gulf region had just jumped to include the barrier islands off Alabama!
- "There's only one reason for that," the pilot
said. "BP doesn't want the media taking pictures ofOIL ON the BEACHES.
You should see the oil that's about six miles off the coast," he said
grimly. We looked down at the wavy orange boom surrounding the islands
below us. The pilot shook his head. "There's no way those booms are
going to stop what's offshore from hitting those beaches."[NOTE these
booms are absoultely USELESS -mere PR they STOP nothing. jm]
- BP knows this as well -- boom can only deflect oil under
the calmest of sea conditions, not barricade it -- so they have stepped
up their already aggressive effort to control what the public sees.
- At the same time I was en route to Orange Beach, Clint
Guidry with the Louisiana Shrimp Association and Dean Blanchard, who owns
the largest shrimp processor in Louisiana, were in Grand Isle taking Anderson
Cooper out in a small boat to see the oiled beaches. The US COAST GUARD
held up the boat for 20 minutes - an intimidation tactic intended to stop
the cameras from recording BP's damage. Luckily for Cooper and the viewing
public, Dean Blanchard is not easily intimidated.
- Credit - Clint Guidry. U.S. Coast Guard blocking
media from oiled beaches off Grand Isle, Louisiana. June 2, 2010.
- A few days later, the gig was up with the booms. Oil
was making landfall in four states and even BP can't be everywhere at once.
CBS 60 Minutes Australia found entire sections of boom hung up in marsh
grasses two feet above the water off Venice. On the same day on the other
side of Barataria Bay, Louisiana Bayoukeeper documented pools of oil and
oiled pelicans inside the boom -- on the supposedly protected landward
side -- of Queen Bess Island off Grand Isle.
- Credit - Louisiana Bayoukeeper. Ineffective boom
traps oil on beach; oiled brown pelican awaits fate. Queen Bess Island,
Louisiana. June 5, 2010. This is the Island that New Orleans had spent
$$$$ time - huge boulders - to protect this santuary for PELICANS state
bird which were almost extinct in late 60s. jm
- With oil undisputedly hitting the beaches and the number
of dead wildlife mounting, BP is switching tactics. In Orange Beach, people
told me BP wouldn't let them collect carcasses. Instead, the company was
raking up carcasses of oiled seabirds. "The heads separate from the
bodies," one upset resident told me. "There's no way those birds
are going to be autopsied. BP is destroying evidence!" PEOPLE have
got to get to this next meeting that the President is supposedly having
this week and ASK - We thought YOU were in Charge? jm
- Provided by Riki Ott. Laughing gull head is separated
from body during collection, rendering it useless for autopsy. Waveland,
MS. May 13, 2010.
- The body count of affected wildlife is crucial to prove
the harm caused by the spill, and also serves as an invaluable tool to
evaluate damages to public property -- the dolphins, sea turtles, whales,
sea birds, fish, and more, that are owned by the American public. Disappeared
body counts means disappeared damages -- and disappeared liability for
BP. BP should not be collecting carcasses. The job should be given to NOAA,
a federal agency, and volunteers, as was done during the Exxon Valdez oil
spill in Alaska.
- NOAA should also be conducting carcass drift studies.
Only one percent of the dead sea birds made landfall in the Gulf of Alaska,
for example. That means for every one bird that was found, another 99 were
carried out to sea by currents. Further, NOAA should be conducting aerial
surveys to look for carcasses in the offshore rips where the currents converge.
That's where the carcasses will pile up -- a fact we learned during the
Exxon Valdez spill. Maybe that's another reason for BP's "no camera"
policy and the flight restrictions.
- On Saturday June 12, people across America will stand
up and speak out with one voice to protest BP's treatment of the Gulf,
neglect for the response workers, and their response to government authority.
President Obama needs to hear and see the people waving cameras and respirators.
Until the media is allowed unrestricted access to the Gulf and impacted
beaches, BP -- not the President of United States -- will remain in charge
of the Gulf response.
- For more information on community rallies, please visit
- Marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor Riki Ott,
PhD, shares stories of oil spill impact to cleanup workers in Sound Truth
and Corporate Myths. Her latest book, Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage
in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez (Chelsea Green, 2008) is on social trauma
of this disaster. She is a national spokesperson with Move To Amend, a
grassroots coalition working to abolish the legal doctrine that allows
corporations to claim constitutional rights and undermine legitimate democracy.