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The Oil is Still Here and So Are We

Remembering Six Months Later

Six months after the onset of the BP disaster, a lot has changed in the Gulf region. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar restructured the former MMS, which oversaw offshore oil and gas activities; improved regulations for offshore drilling has been put in place, and; a moratorium for deepwater drilling was enacted and then recently lifted however, tougher standards have made it more difficult for oil companies to resume drilling immediately. Recently, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus came out with a report emphasizing the need for federal money from the Clean Water Act to go towards the restoration of the environment and the economy of the Gulf Coast states. This was followed by an Executive Order establishing the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force to begin implementing Mabus’ plan. However, above all that, oil still remains in the Gulf on Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida’s coast and those who depend on coastal waters for their livelihood continue to struggle.

On October 20, 2010, the sixth month anniversary of the BP oil disaster, citizens of Louisiana coastal communities gathered in front of the Federal Building in downtown New Orleans to send a message to Congress. The Sierra Club, and other local groups, asked Congress to pass a legislation which would commit $20 billion of the Clean Water Act fines levied against BP to go towards restoration of the Gulf Coast. Speakers ranged from locally-based organizations to fishing communities who have been affected. All encouraged the government to remain dedicated to the Gulf Coast, cleaning oil off our marshes and beaches and restoring the Gulf Coast for its citizens. The speakers emphasized that the oil in the Gulf is still present and how regional and community action is necessary to make changes. Similar gatherings occurred in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama, and a total of 11 solidarity events calling for clean energy gathered in the Gulf States.

As part of the six-month remembrance, 46 environmental, social justice, and fishermen’s groups from across the Gulf Coast, the United States and the international arena released a plan for the recovery and restoration of the Gulf of Mexico and coastal communities. The plan, known as the Weeks Bay Principles for Gulf Recovery, calls on the government to take responsibility and action to:
  • Make coastal communities whole again;
  • Commit to cleaning up and restoring the Gulf;
  • Hold BP accountable;
  • Ensure local participation in decision-making;
  • Conduct short and long-term monitoring; and
  • Invest in economic opportunities to support locally-driven, sustainable recovery that restores and enhances America’s Gulf coast.
The fundamental guidelines demand that local, state and federal agencies begin to build confidence and trust, be inclusive, act and communicate with full transparency, and ground decisions made for restoration in science. The Weeks Bay Principles are a crucial step to the development of a regional commitment to coastal restoration. The Sierra Club and other regional groups are calling on Congress to create a Regional Citizen Advisory Council that would meet frequently to address these issues and overlook current and future developments in the oil industry in the Gulf. This cooperation is necessary for the recovery process of the communities and the Gulf coast to take place.

Written by: Margaret Roberts, Sierra Club

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