'The Plan Is to Let Us Die,' Coastal Parish President Says
By SABRINA CANFIELD
June 6, 2010
GALLIANO, La. (CN) - Almost 70 miles of Louisiana coast are soaked
with oil. That's more land than the seashores of Maryland and Delaware
combined, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday after Secretary of the Interior
Ken Salazar and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano were
flown over the devastated coast. Napolitano said the federal government
would "disperse it, boom it, burn it," to keep more oil from coming
ashore. But St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro had a different
idea. "I would be betting the plan is to let us die," Taffaro said.
Federal officials delivered messages similar to Napolitano's, but none
wanted to address an incident that occurred last weekend, when BP and
the Coast Guard abandoned 44 boats loaded with boo
BP was nowhere in sight as the oil inundated the fragile marshes. And
the oil company has provided little explanation about what made it jump
ship rather fight the oil as it hit land.
BP has continued to spray two chemical dispersants into the Gulf
despite an order by the Environmental Protection Agency to end the
spraying on Sunday night. The chemical dispersants, made by Corexit,
are banned in BP's homeland, the United Kingdom, because of their
Ever since the April 20 explosion of the BP oil rig the Deepwater
Horizon, oil has spewed unchecked from a broken well at the bottom of
the Gulf of Mexico. At least 6 million gallons of crude have already
gushed into the Gulf, though the estimates vary widely. Some experts
have said that every week the spill has dumped more than the 11 million
gallons the Exxon Valdez released off the Alaskan coast in 1989, in
what was formerly the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Far below Louisiana's fragile wetlands are reserves of crude oil and
other valuable minerals. Local residents speculated on Monday that BP
is after the mineral rights, which it cannot touch while the wetlands
It's a grim prospect, perhaps far-fetched, but not for those who live
along the 70 miles of oil-saturated coast, who wonder what the heck
happened this weekend when BP refused to fight the incoming oil.
"We can actually see birds that are covered in oil," Gov. Jindal said Monday at the news conference in Galliano.
"It is clear that we do not have the resources to protect our coast,"
Jindal said, describing the past weekend, as booms and workers "sat for
days waiting for orders" and got no direction approval from BP or the
The Army Corps of Engineers has continued to drag its feet on whether
to approve dredging plans to create a barrier around Louisiana's
wetlands. BP officials have not proposed any plan to prevent the oil
from moving away from the broken well and into Louisiana's fragile
Salazar said he will do everything he can to keep Louisiana's coast from disappearing.
"We're going to keep the boot on the map," Salazar said, referring to the shape of his the state.
Interior Secretary Salazar and other federal officials continue to
claim that damages will be kept at a minimum, and have been managed to
get BP to acknowledge responsibility for the continuing disaster, but
Louisiana officials and residents say there is no plan in sight to
Many environmental experts have said that an oil cleanup might cause
more harm to the coastline than just leaving it there, so the only
viable option is to keep the oil away.
A caller from St. Tammany Parish broke into tears Monday on a talk show
on radio WWL. "All they're trying to do is destroy the wetlands so they
can get the mineral rights to all of whatever is under" the wetlands,
the woman said.
The Obama administration questioned BP's competence on Sunday, when
Salazar told reporters he was "not completely" confident BP knows what
For local residents, BP's violation of the Sunday night deadline to
stop using the toxic dispersant felt like a slap in the face.
"Are they just going to continue spraying this stuff until someone
sends them to jail?" Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser asked
on WWL radio Monday night.
Nungesser said he and other coastal parish presidents are fed up with
BP and the federal government. Nungesser said he intends to take
matters into his own hands, whether the Corps of Engineers issues his
parish the emergency permit he applied for on May 13 or not, and
whether BP decides help keep oil out of the wetlands or not.
"We are giving the Corps 24 hours" to issue the emergency permits,
Nungesser said on WWL. "We are giving them the opportunity to do the
right thing. But even without their permit, we will protect our
After 24 hours, permit or not, Nungesser said Plaquemines Parish will
begin dredging and building emergency berms, as a last line of defense
against oil intrusion into Plaquemines Parish marshes.
"If we don't do it, our marsh will be destroyed," Nungesser said.
The wetlands are prime breeding habitat for dozens or hundreds of
species of wildlife, including fish, crustaceans and birds.
"We're heavily invested in doing the very best job that we can," BP spokesman Mark Salt said on WWL radio Monday.
Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer, said Monday that BP will
spend $500 million in the next 10 years to study the effects of the
Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, including the environmental effects of
As it became clear Monday that BP had not followed orders to stop using
Corexit, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that BP does not have to
stop using it completely, but asked BP to limit its use of the
dispersant and to find a less toxic replacement.
Richard Dennison, a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense
Fund wrote on the group's website Monday that Corexit 9527 and Corexit
9500, the two forms BP is using, are "among the least effective of the
18 dispersants that EPA has approved under the National Oil and
Hazardous Pollution Contingency Plan."
Dennison wrote that the dispersants "appear to be among the more toxic
based on limited short-term toxicity tests conducted on fish and
BP has been using Corexit during the oil spill catastrophe in far greater quantities than ever before in U.S. history.
Jackson said other chemicals the EPA wanted BP to consider appear to be less toxic and more effective than Corexit.
"My concern is they appear to be going out of their way to find problems with these other chemicals," Jackson said.
Propublica reported last week that Corexit was used after the Exxon
Valdez disaster and was later linked with health problems, including
respiratory, nervous system, liver, kidney, and blood disorders. One of
the two Corexit products that BP is suing in the Gulf also contains a
compound that is associated with headaches, vomiting and reproductive
problems, according to the Propublica report.