BP should pay its bills in Louisiana


Louisiana will use $12 million in state and federal money to repair oyster beds and wetlands damaged in the BP spill and then send the bill to BP, a move that reflects the urgency of this work.

BP has been dragging its feet on paying for the work upfront, or, in the case of the oyster beds, paying it at all. While that’s frustrating, Louisiana can’t wait indefinitely to start critical restoration work.

Gov. Bobby Jindal pointed out that 700 miles of shoreline was fouled with oil in the spill, and all of this state’s coastal communities were affected in some way. He urged BP to “replenish these funds as quickly as possible and take other steps to restore our coast.”

That needs to happen, but BP’s response doesn’t promise a quick resolution. The company said it’s continuing to work with Louisiana, other states and federal agencies that are part of the Natural Resource Damages Trustee Council to identify “appropriate emergency repair projects.”

BP described a process that would use experts to evaluate the extent and effect on the spill on habitat and wildlife, including oysters. State officials say that’s a lengthy process that could take months if not years, and Louisiana has problems – like the failure of oyster beds – that need immediate attention.

So far, BP has been taking the position that freshwater – not oil – damaged the oyster beds, even though the state opened up diversions to keep oil out of wetlands.

Louisiana will spend $2 million to put 37,000 tons of oyster cultch on 200 acres of oyster beds on public seed grounds. The money will come from a Department of Wildlife and Fisheries account that’s funded by oil exploration and production companies that disturb beds.

The state will borrow $5 million from federally financed restoration and storm protection projects to re-establish vegetation and sand fencing along 30 miles of oiled shoreline. A final $5 million from a Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s emergency account, will be used to build shoreline to protect artificial oyster reefs.

BP needs to show that its promise to make things right after the spill was more than a public relations platitude. Louisiana has had to borrow this money from other important work, and the bill is on its way.

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

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