Patience Runs Thin at BP Brag-Fest in Tampa


Billy Nungesser made news (again) this week when he walked out of a BP brag-fest during an oil-industry conference in Tampa, saying he’s heard enough about learning lessons from people who “were the same ones who had no sense of urgency about this thing right from the start.”

The St. Pete Times reported on the walk-out by the outspoken Plaquemines Parish council president, writing that: “Of those thousands of people BP and the Coast Guard dispatched to deal with the disaster, he [Nungesser] said, “how many did anything at all to clean up the oil? And how many stopped us from cleaning up the oil?”

The dust-up came during the 20th annual convention for members of “Clean Gulf,” one of those organizations backed by the oil industry. This particular one focuses on dealing with oil spills, so naturally it’s getting a bit more attention now than it did for the last 19 years.

For the keynote speaker, the group picked one of the Gulf Coast’s leading critics of Big Oil… just kidding! It was actually quite the opposite (surprise, surprise). The group selected none other than Mike Utsler, who was in charge of BP’s response in Houma, La. It was Utsler’s speech that Mr. Nungesser walked out on, citing “blood pressure” concerns.

And who’s going to blame Billy? Listening to that sort of drivel must just drive people like Billy Nungesser nuts.

One of the only things Mr. Utsler owns up to is that he should have brought local officials into the response sooner. But how do we (including Billy) know that’s B.S.? Because Utsler is still not listening to local officials.

Reports the Times: “Because the Deepwater Horizon well has been capped and killed, [Nungesser] said, BP officials want to demobilize the cleanup crews in his region. But oil continues washing ashore in his parish, and he remains frustrated by the poor response to the disaster.” Plus, he says, once again, that he STILL doesn’t know who is in charge.

Mr. Nungesser said he found it ironic to find himself surrounded by contractors who sat idle in Louisiana for days “and they’re going to tell us how to respond to the next [spill].”

Of course, BP’s pathetic post-spill response brought about the end of Mr. Utsler’s oil-response career… just kidding again! Actually Mr. Utsler has been named the chief operating officer of BP’s Gulf Coast restoration organization. I’d like to see the hiring criteria on that one.

Read the story of Billy’s walk-off here:

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1 comment

  • That would be like listening to Rush Limbaugh give a speech congratulating himself on the progression of Women’s Rights, or Jesse Helms on Racial Desegregation.

    I admire Mr Nungesser’s fortitude in all this. I would have popped a vein long ago over probably a lot less.

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