Gulf Coast Region Oil Disaster Response Team
(submitted by Carol Adams-Davis, Alabama Chapter, August 11, 2010)
Long Term Recovery Plan
The devastation caused by the Gulf of Mexico oil catastrophe will continue to unfold for many years and many generations. This disaster in our Gulf’s deep waters and on our fragile coastline is the most painful and powerful reminder yet, that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. We can't afford not to change how we produce and use energy, because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.
The offshore oil industry will not solve, and hasn't solved, our economic woes. The building of a massive clean energy industry would!! Ideological leadership can come from the people, right here in our Gulf coast states, who understand the need now to put our environmental health above and beyond the oil industry.
A long-range Gulf Coast Restoration Plan should be coming in a matter of weeks. We should be engaging with President Barack Obama and his Gulf Restoration Plan’s appointed director, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, about the development of this broad plan, which is intended to address the region’s economic, environmental and mental health challenges caused by BP’s oil disaster.
The President said that the new Gulf Restoration Plan would go beyond just repairing the effects of the oil disaster on the unique, teeming ecology of the Gulf region that was already battered by industries and hurricanes. "We must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment." Let’s hold the President responsible for his repeated pledge to do what it takes to make the gulf environmentally and economically better than it was before the spill.
The restoration plan will include economic development, community planning, restoration of the ecosystem and environment, public health efforts, and assistance to individuals and businesses impacted by the oil. I understand that the projects that will have the best chance of being funded should create jobs, correct long standing problems, such as the degradation of beaches and estuaries and move the economy from its dependence on oil and gas production and toward renewable energy production.
The Gulf States are diverse with different parts of the coast holding onto their own niches. Each state has felt unique effects from the oil. The impacts are different within one mile of coastline. Alabama’s needs are not the same as Louisiana’s. The Gulf of Mexico crisis is a national crisis that affects all Americans, and all Americans will be able to see measurable results from a long-term Gulf of Mexico Clean Energy Restoration Plan.
Federal, state and local officials need to listen to local environmental scientists, marine biologists, and environmental organizations for their ideas and input, as they work together to jump-start the region's economy and restore the environment.
Improving public access with transportation alternatives can also provide a boost for local economies by creating jobs and mobility in communities.
As we create a new clean energy future, we reduce the risks of the oil industry and share rewards of promoting environmental tourism and fishing industries, because of a pristine, alive, and productive Gulf of Mexico. Clean energy education and outreach to the public, and guidance to public agencies on the development of their energy conservation plans would be necessary educational development of a successful restoration plan. Economic development services for producers and users of renewable and other alternative energy sources should be provided to the public and private sector.
Congress passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, specifically authorizing projects that would do much to restore the Gulf wetlands. So far, the money has not been made available. We need to urge Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to consider the funding of this Act. Among the Act’s priorities is reconnecting the Mississippi River with its delta wetlands and restoring barrier islands.
Short Term Action Plan
In spite of the deepwater drilling moratorium, the Gulf remains busy with oil and gas operations. As we know, BP's "mission accomplished" statement on August 10, 2010, is really referring to a "mission accomplished moment " with what appears to have been, at long last, after 111 days, the successful top-kill operation. There will be another "mission accomplished moment" press conference scheduled, when and if a relief well completes the boring into the Macondo hole, 18,000 feet beneath the ocean surface, and plugs it permanently with cement.
Even though recent government analysis concluded that most of the estimated five million barrels of spilled oil is gone, skimmed, burned, dispersed, consumed by microbes, or otherwise accounted for, huge questions remain. What will be the long-term environmental impact of the oil and the chemical dispersants? When will the entire gulf be alive and productive again? When will our seafood be safe to eat again? Not to mention: What really happened on the night of April 20, and who's to blame? As far as our Gulf’s marine life and coastal residents are concerned, the BP disaster will never be gone or forgotten.
26% of the oil is still on the surface. The remaining oil that hasn't been skimmed, burned, biodegraded, evaporated into the atmosphere, or washed ashore is below the surface of the water or buried in the sand and sediment. The history of oil cleanup efforts is trying to repeat itself. That history is to attack the crude with chemicals so it's out of sight, then place the incident out of mind, once the slick appears to be gone,
the public push for follow-up studies disappears with it.
We would know a lot more about how this spill was going to affect the gulf if scientists and the government had researched the effects the last Gulf oil disaster, in 1979. Because of the impact of media coverage, websites and new media, more may be learned about this Gulf oil disaster than any that has come before it, as long as the public and environmental organizations demand more of the government and BP in that effort.
Because there is no model for good government follow-up on the damage done by oil spills. And there's even less known about the potential for environmental damage caused by the almost 2 million gallons of dispersant pumped into the gulf to deal with the oil. U S scientists, biological oceanographers, as well as marine and oyster biologists are deeply concerned about impacts that will likely span several decades. Because a large and growing group of scientists are predicting a grim future for much of the Gulf of Mexico as a result of BP's disaster, it is vitally important that research start immediately into the oil and dispersant's impact, and that the findings are shared fully and openly. We must support independent studies of scientists and institutions in search of understanding the impact of the BP oil disaster. An Oil Spill Academic Task Force without ties to the oil industry and government should be considered immediately.
We must support the development of adequate observation systems and scientific exploration of deep-water environments and ecosystems in the gulfs and oceans of the world. Exploration and documentation of deep-water marine life communities should come, before deep-water mineral exploration is allowed.
The University of South Florida marine research vessel continues to take samples in the Desoto Canyon area in the deep northern Gulf waters, proving that dispersed oil is still there. We need many more of these independent research vessels in the Gulf waters to monitor the thousands of square miles that have been affected by dispersed oil, creating profound uncertainties.
We must insist that NOAA's National Seafood Inspection Lab in Pascagoula use more than a sniff test, when testing for oil and dispersants in seafood monitoring. NOAA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration need to add a COREXIT dispersant detection test for seafood safety and assurance that Gulf Coast Seafood is safe for the world to consume. This test could also be used when testing specimens of zooplankton, eggs, larvae, and regional fisheries of the Gulf.