Last Saturday, I joined concerned citizens from across Mississippi at a Hands Across the Sand event in Gulfport. At noon, we linked hands along the beach to send a strong message in support of a clean energy future. It was inspiring to see such a great crowd of people join together to protect our coast and communities, but the events of the last few days along Mississippiâ€™s Gulf coast are a sobering reminder that we have quite a ways to go.
Up until now, the Mississippi Sound and mainland have avoided many of the most severe oil impacts that other parts of the Gulf coast have experienced. Unfortunately, their luck seems to be changing over the last few days. The Sun Herald reported on Monday that oil â€śwashed ashore in quantity for the first time Sunday on the Mississippi Coastâ€ť in Jackson County and other locations. The map below (click to enlarge) shows where oil was reported by the federal response teams on Monday.
The state of Mississippi and federal government have had over two months to develop a plan for how to protect Mississippiâ€™s coast and communities and the scrambling response to this recent onslaught of oil makes one doubt that this time has been well spent. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, other state officials, and Representative Gene Taylor have spent much of the last two months working to minimize the impacts of this disaster in the public eye. For example, Rep. Taylor compared the spill to â€śchocolate milkâ€ť and assured reporters that it â€śis tending to break up naturallyâ€ť while Governor Barbour recently told NBCâ€™s Meet the Press that the temporary drilling moratorium on 33 deepwater drilling rigs was worse than the oil drilling disaster.
The dramatic events in Mississippi over the last couple of days have caused both men to execute an about face. At a press conference on Monday, they railed against the lack of resources like skimmers and lack of communication between responders. We applaud their decision to deal with the reality on the ground and work to protect Mississippiâ€™s coast. Hopefully, their renewed commitment to the health of the Mississippi Sound and coastal communities will continue past the immediate crisis the coast is facing, because itâ€™s going to be a long-haul effort to get coastal communities the resources they need to fight for their future and ultimately create a clean energy future so that this never happens again.
Raleigh Hoke is GRN's Mississippi Organizer