Lessons from Alaska – Local Citizens Vs The Disappearing Act

We are now in Valdez, AK. Today we met with the Prince Edward Sound Regional Citizen Advisory Board (RCAC).During our meeting the leaders of the RCAC made clear that if the citziens of the Gulf want to obtain better safeguards and better oversight, we had better move forward quickly. They warned us that the disaster will soon be declared over.Low and behold, as the discussion was proceeding, the federal government, to the pleasure of BP, declared the disaster over — miraculously the oil is gone. All of the participants on this tour– including the Mayor of La Fitte, the scientists, and the native Americans – are dubious about this pronouncemnent. Now most of our conversations revolve around how to make the Gulf whole when both our governmnent and the polluter want the problem to simply disappear.It has become clear from our discussion of Regional Citizens’ Advisory Councils that it is critical the citizens of the Gulf demand independent oversight of the oil and gas industry.The RCAC does not have veto power, nor do they oppose continuing oil development. They simply demand that if development must continue, the citizens must have the the abilty to ensure that the industry is vigilant in its efforts to both prevent disasters and prepare for spills that are ineviitable. The RCAC conducts indepedent science, has technical staff who review response plans and actually attend oil spill drills to ensure that the industry is ready to respond should an accident occur.This is what we in the Gulf need and deserve. Only in this way can we ensure that the oil industry is vigilant about safety and held accountable.

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