Coast Guard Lets BP Off the Hook
GRN Statement on Coast Guard's "Clean-Up Completion Plan" for the Gulf of Mexico
The oil is still here, and so are we. Despite the Coast Guard's recent proclamation that most of the Gulf is cleaned up, BP's crude continues to come ashore and impact the ecosystems and communities of the Gulf. Every trip we make into the field uncovers more oil. Much of the oil is deep down on the floor of the Gulf affecting the marine ecosystem, some marsh areas still ooze oil, and each new storm brings ashore new pieces of tar along with weathered oil. Tropical Storm Lee uncovered giant tar mats, and as recently as last week, a trip to Pass a Loutre in the Louisiana marsh lead to the discovery of tar "bricks" and gooey oil. The Gulf is not clean of BP's oil.
Ecologically important impacts from BP's oil continue to surface - fewer whale sharks sighted in the Gulf; gill damage showing in killifish, an important bait fish; dead dolphins continuing to wash ashore in record numbers . . . the list goes on. It's anyone's guess what will be discovered next, especially now that low-level chronic exposure to BP's oil may continue for a decade or more because the Coast Guard has signed away BP's clean up responsibility. BP will now only have to clean up if there is proof that it is their oil, but the Coast Guard often fails to be able to make such determinations.
The lack of a robust monitoring system in the Coast Guard's "Clean-Up Completion Plan" is almost as troubling as the lack of transparency in deciding what is considered "clean". Coastal Louisiana, for instance, is thousands of miles of coastal wetlands and must be continually monitored in order to know if an area has been re-oiled. Just as the Coast Guard would like to ignore that fact, the agency has left citizens in the dark about this plan to let BP off the hook for clean-up, informing the public a full week after signing the deal.
The Gulf has long suffered as our nation's energy sacrifice zone, and it's clear that a Regional Citizens' Advisory Council is absolutely necessary to increase coastal community engagement and oil industry transparency. It's outrageous that this effective community model was developed in the wake of the Exxon Valdez, but has been withheld from the residents of the Gulf.
BP's oil is still in the Gulf, and it is the Coast Guard's legal responsibility to hold BP accountable for cleaning it up.
Any portion of this statement can be quoted with attribution to Cynthia Sarthou, Executive Director, Gulf Restoration Network.