Lessons from Alaska – Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council

I’m back home in New Orleans now after an enlightening trip. Below is the update I wrote on Friday but was unable to post until now.——————————–I have left Valdez on my way home. Today, before my departure, we spent time talking to the staff of the Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council about their work. Their ability to oversee the operations of both the oil industry and the federal agencies has been citicial to reducing the risk of spills and the ability of communities to address spills that are inevitable. The residents of the Gulf– an area that produces as much or more oil than Alaska — deserve this same ability.Unfortunately, I am hearing that Congress apparently does not think we should have independent oversight. Instead, they want to limit us to participation in a stakeholder board of a proposed Task Force made up of state and federal agencies. Of course, this group would have no independence or funding. In short, we would have no real ablity to influence the way the oil industry does business.What I learned in Alaska is that the independence of concerned and engaged citizens — fishermen, mayors, conservationists and affected communities –is critical. The natural resources of the Gulf. although different. are every bit as beautiful and important as are those of Alaska. If the oil industry and federal government want to continue to put those resources at risk, the residents of the Gulf must be able to ensure that they: (1) are doing all that they can to prevent another BP disaster and (2) they have the capability to respond quickly and effectively.It is clear that unless the residents of the Gulf demand this, we wil be left to once again rely on the empty promises of the industry and lax oversight by government agencies.

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