Sketchy Cleanup Criteria


They say truth is the first casualty of war, and apparently transparency is the first casualty of the BP oil spill. Now we can add cleanup criteria to the list that already includes major issues like flow rates, dispersant recipes, environmental testing, claims process criteria, independent fund negotiations…the list goes on and on.

As for the cleanup criteria: The Associated Press is reporting on comments from retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal incident commander, indicating that state and federal officials are completing agreements that would set up a checklist to decide how clean “clean” means when it comes to local beaches.

No public hearings? No discussion? No local standards to consider? There’s no indication that local officials can appeal the decisions, or indeed, if they would even be notified. One of the problems with doing everything in secret is that nobody really ever knows what’s going on. And this major development comes to public attention not through a Coast Guard announcement, but during Adm. Allen’s conference call with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board. With more than 600 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline officially listed as “oiled,” that means a lot of decisions are going to be made without local input. Granted there’s nothing new about that…but it continues to wreak havoc on local cleanup efforts, not to mention local politics.

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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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