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April 27, 2012

BP Oil Disaster: Two Years Later

Louie - 2 Year

"We're not mad, just disappointed."

On the week of the BP Oil Disaster memorial, the former members of the President's Oil Spill Commission doled out report card-style grades to the President, Congress, and oil industry. Released only days before the two-year memorial of BP's Macondo Well blowout, the report delivers an extremely important message to those three stakeholders: try harder. 

To President Obama, the commission awarded an obligatory B (he did establish the group); to industry, a C+; and to congress, an all-but-shocking D.  Grades no college student would write home about, and yet we all expect more. 

The former commissioners were able to elaborate on some aspects of their grading system.  A general statement on their report notes indicated that they are "encouraged…but much more needs to be done."  While they laud the efforts to mitigate the damage associated with this nation’s worst environmental disaster on record, they remain discouraged by a dearth of momentum from federal legislators.  Former Florida Senator and commission co-chair Bob Graham explained: "Across the board we are disappointed with Congress' lack of action."  His remarks allude to the fact that in the near 24 months since the catastrophe not one piece of legislation has passed that instates comprehensive regulatory reform for the oil and gas industry or creates a funding source for the long term oversight of deep-water drilling.

The commission's report was not the only scathing review of progress in the Gulf. On April 20th, the Gulf Future Coalition, a group comprised of over 40 fisherfolk, coastal tribes, charter boat and tourism groups, as well as local, regional and national community and environmental groups -- including Sierra Club -- released a Progress Report on Gulf recovery to measure the efforts of BP, Big Oil and federal agencies on coastal and marine restoration, community recovery, and public health issues.  All four areas were key themes of the Gulf Future Coalition's Gulf Future Action Plan that was unveiled one year after the blowout; of the four categories, the first three received remarks of "unacceptable," leaving coastal restoration with a lack-luster "needs improvement."  

A major theme throughout the progress report consistently points out the necessity of a Regional Citizens' Advisory Council to ensure that community stakeholders have a voice in how oil and gas operations are conducted in the Gulf of Mexico. To date, not one such collective has been established in the Gulf region  Also garnering criticism was a lack of action in initiating restoration plans, poking once again at the absence of congressional movement in creating oversight funds or passing regulatory legislation.  Gulf Future's report did provide some hope for future progress describing "Potential for the Gulf Coast" as "excellent."  

Rehabilitation in the Gulf of Mexico is still years away, but that does not mean that great strides in progress cannot be made every day.  Recovery must be the goal in the minds of not only the Gulf Coast’s inhabitants, but in those of state and federal leadership as well.  The future of this region cannot afford to see its most important pieces of legislation left to stagnate on congressional shelves, or we risk a future of inaction and further damage.   

Image of Louie Miller, Sierra Club Gulf Senior Organizer

-- Max Gerson, Sierra Club Louisiana Intern


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