“Clean Gulf” – Hiding in Plain Sight

Cocktail hour at the “Clean Gulf” conference, sponsored by none other than BP. An oil and gas trade group calling itself “Clean Gulf” gathered last week in Tampa for its annual conference, even as BP’s toxic tarballs continued to wash up on Gulf coast beaches. “Clean Gulf” is the type of industry spin used to hide in plain sight. What can’t hide in plain sight are the daily oil leaks and spills, thousands of miles of canals through wetlands, abandoned oil infrastructure, and the ongoing BP disaster impacts that are the legacy of decades of oil and gas development in other Gulf states.Jonathan Henderson, Coastal Resiliency Organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network, attended the conference and spoke with Janelle Irwin from WMNF several times throughout the week about continued spills, the use of Corexit dispersant, and about oil spill clean up. Both Henderson and I spoke live about the use of Corexit, continued Gulf spills and Florida’s drilling landscape on WMNF’s Radioactivity with Rob Lorei on November 13th. Henderson remarked “we all lived with the uncertainty and anxiety of the BP oil disaster. Many communities along the Gulf continue to suffer personal health effects, cultural disintegration and job losses. In response to the disaster, a bipartisan commission made recommendations to make future drilling safer. Very few of those recommendations have been implemented.” While industry accidents are an unfortunate fact of life elsewhere in the Gulf, it’s no accident that the conference was held in Tampa. Governor Scott and others are anxious to open the coast of Florida and the eastern Gulf to drilling, and with the loss of Congressman Young and his leadership, the drilling threat in federal waters is even greater.Florida’s Gulf coast businesses, local governments, citizens and environmental advocates have amply demonstrated that we don’t want drilling in Florida. Currently, our eastern Gulf coastline is protected by a federal drilling moratorium, and drilling has not been allowed in state waters. Floridians oppose drilling because it’s too big a risk to our way of life and economy, which both depend on a clean and healthy environment.Oil and gas drilling must stay off the table for Florida waters, and any further expansion in places where it’s already underway must provide adequate oversight of the industry and response to oil spills. Accountability, responsibility and planning are crucial for any industry that can and has inflicted such grave damage.We hope conference attendees, like many other visitors, enjoyed Florida’s beaches, water and wildlife while they were here. But they have a lot of work to do before they’ve earned the title “Clean Gulf.” Cathy Harrelson is GRN’s Florida Organizer.

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