Draft report from state oil spill panel due soon


OCEAN SPRINGS, Mississippi – A draft report by the Mississippi Gulf of Mexico Commission that is to develop a plan for the coast recovery from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is expected to be completed within weeks, said William Walker, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

“We are focused on four thematic areas: economic development; environmental issues; public health, safety and welfare; and education research,” Walker said in an e-mail statement.

Walker and Trudy Fisher, executive director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, are co-chairmen of the 34-member commission that was appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour in August.

Fisher said the draft report is scheduled to be released within two weeks.

“We expect the commission report to be finalized by the end of the year,” she said.

The commission will submit its final report to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, the former Mississippi governor tapped by President Obama to lead the long-term restoration efforts along the Gulf Coast.

Neither Fisher nor Walker offered details of the report.

“It is a compilation of the overall vision of our Mississippi Gulf Coast going forward,” Fisher said. “It is really taking information that was already in place.

“A lot of the work was post-Katrina, but it is revising, updating and working in the element of the oil spill and the impacts of the oil spill.”

The commission was to produce a long-term recovery plan from the oil spill that began April 20 with the explosion and fire that killed 11 workers on the BP PLC rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Department of Interior estimated about 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from the broken well.

“In the wake of the oil spill, we have an opportunity to address any number of issues in a comprehensive way, not just for right now, but into the future,” Barbour said in August. “This commission will have a wide charge, from preliminarily determining the impact of the oil spill on Gulf ecosystems to addressing concerns about seafood safety to improving hurricane protection and habitat restoration.”

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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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