Friday, January 14, 2011

GULF RESIDENTS TO OIL INDUSTRY AND GOVERNMENT: OUR HEALTH IS NOT A TRADEOFF!

BY ROCKY KISTNER

Yesterday, an icy wind whipped through the French Quarter. But inside the New Orleans Sheraton, the atmosphere was hot.

That’s where 250 people gathered to attend a forum sponsored by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Appointed by President Obama, it had just released its final report after a six-month investigation into the nation’s worst oil disaster in history.

People in the Gulf were anxious to sound off about their anger, frustration and flat-out despair about the way the oil industry and the government had handled the cleanup response and compensation for the millions of people impacted by the ongoing disaster.

Commissioners Frances Beinecke and Don Boesch prevailed over the bad weather in Washington and made the trip to the Big Easy. The audience was largely receptive to their report, which recommended an extensive overhaul of the oil industry’s failed safety practices in the Gulf and the creation of new independent agency to monitor offshore oil drilling activity.

Commissioner Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science, said the government had done little to advance research and response to major oil spills since the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1990. “Like an Army fighting the last war, we’ve failed to pay attention to the risk of oil drilling in deep water,” he said.

Commissioner Frances Beinecke, president of NRDC, told the crowd that the report had found a “systemic problem” and explained this oil spill was not an isolated incident. She stressed the commission’s finding that the government should form an independent agency to monitor and police the oil industry as the nuclear industry is regulated. And she called for an increase in the oil industry’s $75 million liability cap, as well as industry funding for increased government oversight.

In an audience of environmentalists, fishermen, and community activists, the acknowledgment of a widespread oil industry problem and recommendations that lead us in the right direction were welcomed.  But there was pent up emotion over the health problems caused by the oil disaster that many in the audience felt were being ignored by the government. These are problems the commission agreed needed to be addressed.  

THE WHOLE STORY IS HERE:

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