NRDC Spokesman talks about his Gulf trip

05/25/10 Kate Bradshaw
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As oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster continues to wash ashore on the northern Gulf Coast, those whose livelihoods depend on the area’s natural resources are relying on BP’s response efforts. Bob Deans is a spokesperson for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). He recently returned from a trip to the Gulf. He says when flying over the leak, he saw long ribbons of crude on the Gulf surface, and could clearly see massive plumes of oil underwater. Deans also spoke with several locals about the impacts of the leak. He recounted one of these conversations today in an interview with WMNF.

There was an oyster man. And I said — he was about my age, mid-fifties—and I said, “How long have you been doing this?” And he said, “You know, we really can't remember life before oysters. We start when we're boys big enough to get on the boat and pick up the oysters.” And he held out an oyster to me that had been in his oyster beds since Katrina, and he said, “This is what we've been waiting for since Katrina. And if this oil comes into the bayou, these oysters will die.” This is their livelihood; this is their way of life. And more importantly, this is our national legacy, these natural resources. And it's just being enveloped now in this toxic mud of oil that's washing ashore and making its way up into the bays, and into the estuaries, and into the bayous.

Q. So in your opinion, is there anything that can be done to minimize the impact of what's already been flowing out?

Well, I'd say a couple of things, Kate. Number one, it is imperative that that leak be stopped. And BP, the oil industry, and our national government needs to look hard at every conceivable resource there is to stop that leak. We can't get complacent about this. We can't be thinking about mid-August; we can't be thinking about having hundreds of thousands if not in excess of a million gallons a day of crude oil flowing into the Gulf. We have to move forward on stopping that leak.

Number two, stopping the oil from making its way into these fragile estuaries and wetlands. We obviously need more skimmers. We need more protection out there. We need more boats in the water. We need more people getting that oil out of the water. These people need to be trained. They need to be protected. We can't have shrimpers going out there without respirators on when they're breathing toxic oil.

And finally, we're going to need restoration capability, whether that means buying more area down there in the wetlands that can be used to mitigate the loss of habitat that we know is going to happen. Whether it means bringing in species to replace the pelicans, the replace the fish, to replace the shrimp, to replace the oysters. All that needs to be looked at very hard.

Q. Going back to the cleanup and recovery effort. Some officials have been saying in the past couple of days that the federal government should take it over from BP. What do you think of that?

You know, the real question there, Kate, is what additional resources, if any, would that bring to bear on the situation? The federal government has the authority to take control of this. The question is, do we have additional resources that can't be brought to bear under the current construct? I'm not — I don't know the answer to that.

Q. Can you characterize BP's response so far?

Q. I can tell you this, Kate: we've talked to probably sixty different water men, environmental justice advocates, community leaders, family members, people of all stripes down there. Nobody down in the Gulf that I talked to trusts BP. BP hasn't given us any reason to trust them. They haven't been forthcoming with accurate, credible information about the amount of oil coming out of that spill. We're five weeks into this; we don't know yet whether they're going to be able to cap it. But clearly, there was no plan in effect for capping a leak of this magnitude. BP was required to have that plan in place. They didn't, clearly, or we wouldn't be where we are today, five weeks later, still hoping upon hope that we can stop that leak.

So that piece of BP's preparation and response have been utterly lacking. And it has undermined trust in the region; it has undermined trust nationally. And these are people who lack confidence in the federal government's ability to respond, too, because they're still traumatized from what happened in the aftermath of Katrina. So there's a lack of trust; there's a lack of confidence; there's a lack of faith. People are scared.

More WMNF coverage of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill:

Deepwater Horizon: An international perspective

Greg Palast on BP (part one)

Chemical oil dispersants may harm environment

Behind "Drill, Baby, Drill"

Sen. Bill Nelson visits oil spill incident command post in St Pete

Two state legislators urge special session on drilling ban

Hillsborough BOCC opposes expanded oil drilling

Castor says BP thinks oil leak could be up to 60 thousand barrels per day

Congressional committee grills rig execs

Crist meets with BP in St Pete on oil disaster

Gulf Restoration Network responds to BP oil disaster

Sink still wants answers from BP on oil disaster

The suffering begins on the Gulf Coast

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