BP officials agree to meeting on aid for seafood and tourism industries


Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle said Wednesday he will meet with three “senior-level” officials of BP today to press the state’s demands for $75 million from the oil giant to help market Louisiana’s seafood and tourism industries that have been hit hard by the Deepwater Horizon-BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Angelle said that two letters he wrote BP officials – the first July 26 and a follow-up letter Sept. 15 – got no response.
Angelle said he wrote a pithy e-mail to Larry Thomas, BP’s general manager of public and governmental affairs, on Wednesday morning. Aides said Thomas didn’t send an e-mail reply, but BP officials called to set up the meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m. in the lieutenant governor’s office in the Capitol Annex in Baton Rouge.

In the e-mail to Thomas, Angelle pointed out his first two missives got no response. He also told Thomas that he has been invited to testify Tuesday at a presidential commission in Washington, D.C., that is looking into the oil spill and its effects on tourism and other issues.

“I will be reaching out to my counterparts in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida this week in an effort to build a partnership that will tell our combined story to this commission and the American people,” he wrote in the e-mail.

Angelle spokeswoman Anna Dearmon said the three oil company officials who are scheduled to attend the meeting include: Luke Keller, executive vice president for BP America’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization; Mary Jo Jacobi, special adviser for external affairs to the restoration organization; and Iris Cross, general manager of external affairs of the restoration organization and a Louisiana native who is featured in the company’s nationwide media campaign pledging that BP will not leave the state until the problems of the spill are addressed.

BP spokesmen confirmed the meeting but said it was a “private conversation” with a state official and would not say what will be discussed.

BP has given Louisiana $15 million to help it with its tourism marketing and promotion during the summer months, but Angelle said 97 percent of that has been spent or committed. He said a recent national survey of more than 1,000 tourists indicated that of those who had planned a trip to the state, 29 percent canceled or postponed their visits specifically because of the spill.

The study also said that 48 percent of the national audience polled believed that seafood from the Gulf served in restaurants isn’t safe, a misconception state officials have been trying to dispel.

The Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, the state’s chief tourist-promotion agency overseen by Angelle, also expects to receive a tourism forecast analysis from the University of New Orleans next week which is expected to highlight the impact the spill had, and will continue to have, on the state.

“Louisiana will not allow BP to destroy a brand, an image and a unique culture that we have worked centuries to create, develop, protect and share with the world,” Angelle’s e-mail said.

He said he expects to leave today’s meeting “with a commitment” from BP on additional financing for tourism and seafood promotion.

“They are going to know three things when the meeting is over,” Angelle said. “They are going to know how to spell tourism when they leave; they are going to know how to spell seafood when they leave. And they are going to know how to spell Angelle when they leave. I want to send a message to the queen of England that they (BP officials) are deceiving the 18th state of the Union.”

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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