This Probably Won’t Make BP’s Next Tourism Ad: Tar Mat Off Alabama Beach


It’s hard to turn on your TV these days and avoid those cloying spots for Gulf Coast tourism that BP is spending millions of dollars on — proving that the only thing the company behind the Deepwater Horizon disaster actually works hard on cleaning up is its image. You know the ad — the one that declares to an uptempo zydeco soundtrack that “‘I’m glad to report that all beaches and waters are open for everyone to enjoy!” (Which is not true, by the way.) Obviously BP didn’t run this commercial past Tony Kennon, the mayor of Orange Beach, Ala. Kennon is furious at the British oil giant and when you learn about what’s going on down in his Gulf Coast resort town, it’s easy to understand why.

Last weekend, with the peak tourist season just days away, a contractor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was  dredging an area near the Perdido Pass Bridge when it struck oil — and not in a good, “Beverly Hillbillies” kind of way. The dredging unearthed a thick gooey tar mat that was underneath the sand. The activity released both a nasty odor and an oil sheen that covered the water east of Perdido Pass — a grim reminder of the bad days of the worst oil disaster in U.S. history. BP is now saying that it will pay to clean up the new pollution discovery –if it can be established through tests being conducted by the Coast Guard  that the gunk is from the Macondo well that blew out in 2010.  Of course, the chance is that is only slightly less than 100 percent. Kennon, the Orange Beach mayor, is irate that he has to deal with this black goo right on the cusp of the summer beach season.

“Of course it’s theirs,” the mayor told one reporter. “It’s not cooking grease out of the restaurant at the point. It’s the tar mat from the Macondo well.” In another interview, Kennon said: “We’ve told BP all along there were tar mats there, but they have refused to come and core the area. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s from BP — unless we hit an oil well and we’re all going to be wealthy.”

This is what’s so infuriating about BP’s big-money PR campaigns that are about as slick as the waters off Perdido Pass right now. It’s why I get so mad, as I did the other day, when I see that the United Kingdom has the gall to anoint these eco-terrorists as an official “Sustainability Partner” of what are supposed to be the most “green” Summer Olympics ever held. British Petroleum needs to be spending its out-sized profits on restoring trashed beaches and marshlands — not on restoring its image.

It would be one thing if the ugly tar mat off Orange Beach were an isolated event. But it’s not. For one thing, most experts think there could be hundreds of other sites with trapped oil just like the one of Perdido Pass Bridge. But that’s just one problem. Every day, I come across some new reminder that for the residents of the Gulf Coast, the Deepwater Horizon disaster isn’t something from a history book but an ongoing, everyday nightmare.

Just listen to charter boat captain Gregg Arnold, who told Louisiana Weekly that the
trout population is down by as much as 98 percent since the spill while redfish numbers are off by 50 percent. “We’ve seen redfish and trout with lesions since the spill, and we didn’t see that before,” Arnold said. “We’ve noticed a decline in the amount of bait–pilchards, mullet, shrimp and crabs. And sharks are moving closer to shore, probably because they can’t find food.”

Or ask Dean Blanchard  of Dean Blanchard Seafood in Grand Isle, La., who told the Daily Comet that the recent shrimp haul was about 18 percent of what he normally gets, and that many of the boats were carrying shrimp that seemed sickened by the oil spill. He added that the shrimp had lesions and tumors, “stuff that I’ve never seen in my life.”

And yet BP wants us all to move on, and so do their friends in the government. Look, we’d all like to put the Deepwater Horizon tragedy behind us — but how can we when these grim reminders keep bubbling up from under the sand? The reality is that there is so much more work that needs to be done, and BP still needs to step up and take full responsibility for their mess.

For an overview of the tar mat situation off Orange Beach, read:

Read my post from May 3 about BP and the sellout of the London Olympics:

For more about the ongoing crisis of marine wildlife in the Gulf, read:

To read more about the slow start of shrimp season, go to

© Smith Stag, LLC 2012 – All Rights Reserved

1 comment

  • I have filed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. This is to report that the BP ads are claiming that the Gulf is back. We all know it isn’t…even we northerners are becoming more aware. The complaint is being followed up with a massive amount of letters and supporting information and pictures for the FTC. This letter is the cover letter and was published in the Erie Times News, May 10th. Anyone who knows of “current conditions” whether the beaches or sick people. You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission to investigate that ad, and hopefully have it pulled. BP should be ashamed but most of all, free clinics should have been set up from Day 1, and our countryment and women who helped in the cleanup when OSHA mandated certain cleaning equipment were sentenced to illness without that equipment. NPR radio has done a brilliant job of exposing our ill gulf residents involved in the “clean up”.

    The Link in The Erie Times news follows, and the story in it’s entirety is below the link.
    A Senator’s Seafood Story vs Truth in the Gulf
    On April 23rd, MSNBC reporter Andrea Mitchell interviewed Senator Mary Landrieu, of Louisiana, addressing the current conditions of the Gulf since largest oil spill in our country caused by British Petroleum. Senator Landrieu’s comment was “All studies show that the fish is safe to eat…oysters and shrimp safe according to all studies and we are all eating it as fast as we can.”

    On the very same day, April 23rd, there is a news release from the State. It is the the very same day as everyone is happily gobbling up the seafood according to the Senator Landrieu. This might be the more accurate report:
    LOOMING CRISIS: OFFICIALS CLOSE GULF WATERS TO SHRIMPING AS REPORTS OF DEFORMED SEAFOOD INTENSIFY: Alarmed by widespread reports of visibly sick, deformed seafood coming out of the Gulf of Mexico, state officials have closed area waters to shrimping this morning (April 23). The waters will be closed indefinitely as scientists run tests in an effort to get a handle on a situation that is fast becoming a full-blown crisis on the Gulf Coast. (at least 50 per cent of the shrimp caught in that period in Barataria Bay, a popular shrimping area that was heavily impacted by BP’s oil and dispersants, were eyeless. Disturbingly, not only do the shrimp lack eyes, they even lack eye sockets.”

    Even though we live in the North, what is going on in the Gulf can affect us indirectly through a fishing and tourism industry. BP sports ads showing children swimming happily in clear gulf waters and ads that say “ The gulf is back”, and fishing is back, etc. The ad runs on every network.

    Last week I took a bundle of letters from the gulf residents I that have come to know through my children’s environmental program to Pennsylvania Senator Earl’s office Why? Because I want to know why BP can show children happily swimming in clear waters. This is an ad we are all watching, on all networks. They don’t show the deformed birds, and dolphins still dying, and fish with eye sockets missing, or the growing population of gulf residents with respiratory illnesses and lesions on parents, grandparents, and children.
    As a childrens environmental organization, I place a high degree of sanctity on the environmental future of our planet for our children. I am also encouraging these children to make the environment, their issue, to use their voice.
    . When did the act of defending the integrity of our environment and the right to live a life free of contaminants become blatantly disregarded by corporate polluters on every level from the oil industry, chemical industry, tire incinerators, etc. These corporate polluters are spending money on lobbyists of corporations that violate our clean air, earth and seas, and they work to undermine our environmental safety for corporate expansion and profits. And, with those profits BP is allowed to lure us to the Gulf. The toxic gulf, for a vacation.
    I want answers. I want to know why there wasn’t an evacuation. I want to know why BP’s money that Obama said was tagged for restoration wasn’t also used for health clinics. And, most of all, I want to know WHY BP IS ALLOWED TO RUN ADS CLAIMING THE GULF IS BACK.
    Diane Esser, Founder/Program Director – SEE THIS LETTER TO THE EDITOR ON FACEBOOK
    Butterflies for Kids I Am A Planet Kid Program 814-8730136 : FACEBOOK: BUTTERFLIES FOR KIDS – All Gulf News shared
    “It’s the address we all share – Planet Earth – Handle With Care”

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

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