Louisiana Blasts BP-Coast Guard Plan that Effectively Ends Oil Spill Cleanup


The federally approved plan amounts to a sweetheart deal for BP, and a huge black eye for Louisiana and the entire Gulf Coast. The plan – which transitions out of the cleanup phase into the restoration phase – allows BP to walk away from miles and miles of contaminated coastline, marshlands and beaches that are still being hit by fresh, highly toxic oil. A high-ranking Louisiana public official slammed the plan last week, saying there are “23 miles of shoreline where there’s still oil being found and millions of barrels of BP oil in the Gulf that’s unaccounted for.”

For those obvious and undeniable reasons, among others, Louisiana has refused to sign off on a plan that effectively shuts down BP-financed cleanup efforts for good. But despite Louisiana’s valid concerns about a plan that has been described as “fundamentally inadequate,” “irresponsible” and “junk” by local officials, the feds have already begun implementation. Here’s how Mark Schleifstein of the Times-Picayune breaks it down:

[Louisiana charges] that the plan leaves coastal beaches and wetlands vulnerable to continued oil contamination with no guarantee that BP will be required to pay for future cleanups.

The state is particularly concerned that the plan includes no long-term monitoring for additional oil, contains provisions that are likely to disrupt a multibillion-dollar federal-state coastal restoration program, and excludes parish leaders from decision-making. Those are the highlights of a Nov. 2 letter sent to Coast Guard Capt. Julia Hein, federal on-scene coordinator for the spill, by state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves.

I find it outrageous that parish leaders, the people on the ground in the impacted areas, have been kept out of the decision-making process. In a word, asinine. The federal government is jamming this plan down our throats, and I applaud our elected officials in Louisiana for taking a stand against the madness.

Mr. Graves goes on to explain that once the process moves into the restoration phase (as it’s now doing), BP cleanup efforts effectively end – even when it can be proved that oil is from the Macondo Prospect. By approving this sham of a plan, the Coast Guard has moved beyond the point of no return, saddling the Gulf Coast with years of future cleanups and untold costs while serving up a golden parachute for BP. More from the Times-Picayune:

…Graves said the plan is flawed because it would absolve BP from paying for any future cleanup in sections of the coast where a restoration project is under way. He said (Coast Guard Capt.) Hein refused to agree to a state proposal that would have allowed restoration projects to be suspended until a clean-up were completed if additional oil from the Macondo well were found.

“How can we sign out of the response effort without knowing what’s going to happen?” he said. “I don’t think it’s in the public interest to let BP out of its responsibility to clean this up, because we could be dealing with this for decades.”

Mr. Graves makes a very simple but very compelling point: How indeed do we sign off on letting BP shut down cleanup efforts when fresh oil continues to contaminate our coast and for all we know more could come ashore tomorrow? We just don’t know how long and how severe the re-oilings will be. And yet the Coast Guard stumbles along in its blind allegiance to BP – apparently making decisions with no regard for what’s actually happening on the ground and in the water.

Remember that alarming Auburn University study released in September? For those who have forgotten, it warned of the widespread, long-term risks to coastal communities posed by massive offshore tar mats. Consider this from a Sept. 20 Associated Press report (in the wake of Tropical Storm Lee):

Auburn University experts who studied tar samples at the request of coastal leaders said the latest wave of gooey orbs and chunks appeared relatively fresh, smelled strongly and were hardly changed chemically from the weathered oil that collected on Gulf beaches during the spill. …

The study concluded that mats of oil – not weathered tar, which is harder and contains fewer hydrocarbons – are still submerged on the seabed and could pose a long-term risk to coastal ecosystems.

How can the Coast Guard simply shrug off research of this kind? It’s the height of irresponsibility and the ultimate dereliction of duty.

Another concern we have in Louisiana is all the oil-soaked boom (miles of it) and other spill-related hazardous waste that remains hidden in our marshes and on our barrier islands (see video below).

And what about the repeated, credible reports that the Macondo Prospect may still be leaking? That escalating issue doesn’t seem to give pause to the Coast Guard brass either. More from the Times-Picayune report:

Graves also is objecting to what he says is a refusal by the Coast Guard to continue to monitor for oil leaking from the Macondo well after remotely operated submersibles failed to find evidence of a leak after reports of oil at the site several weeks ago.

“We said, look, there’s still uncertainty here about the source of this oil, and we need some type of monitoring program over the wellhead to determine it there’s some new trend,” he said. “Do an aerial survey on a regular basis and we’ll revisit the need in a few months if there are additional hits of oil.

“She said no, they were not going to do that,” he said. “So we put together our own plan using state planes and helicopters and asked them to approve (BP paying for) that.

“She said, no, we’re not going to fund that, either,” he said.

“It’s like they’re a victim of Stockholm Syndrome,” Graves said, referring to a psychological phenomenon where hostages become sympathetic to their captors. “The Coast Guard is supposed to be a federal agency representing the public.”

Stockholm Syndrome may be the only way to explain the inexplicable – that is, the Coast Guard’s decision to screw the Gulf for the warm embrace of BP. There’s no doubt in my mind that the decision the feds have made here will go down in infamy.

We’ve got a branch of the U.S. military sacrificing the American people and their land to the whims and demands of a filthy-rich British oil conglomerate. You can bet our Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves!

Read Mark Schleifstein’s full report in the Times-Picayune: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2011/11/louisiana_refuses_to_sign_bp-c.html

Read my Sept. 19 post on the Auburn study that reveals the oil on the seafloor isn’t breaking down: https://www.stuarthsmith.com/waves-of-new-contamination-study-shows-oil-from-last-years-spill-isnt-breaking-down-on-gulf-floor

See what the Coast Guard is allowing BP to walk away from: https://www.stuarthsmith.com/is-bps-macondo-prospect-still-leaking-fresh-oil-is-coming-ashore-more-than-100-miles-away

© Smith Stag, LLC 2011 – All Rights Reserved

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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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