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September 28, 2010

Testifying for the Gulf Oil Disaster Commission

Yesterday was the first day of a two day hearing by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. The hearing is covering the response following the BP spill, impacts on the Gulf and approaches to long-term restoration.

At the hearing, our own Sierra Club Apprentice Jenny Kordick testified about the Sierra Club's involvement and wishes for the cleanup and restoration. Here is her testimony: (You can also watch it at C-SPAN's website - her testimony starts at about minute 59)

Last week, the Sierra Club brought a delegation of Gulf Coast residents impacted by the spill to Washington DC - these individuals included Sierra Club staff and volunteers working on oil spill response, fishermen, and coastal business owners. The group met with Professor Lazarus, Director Bromwich, representatives from NOAA, and members of Congress with a clear message that the BP oil disaster is not over. Although the BP well may be capped, the Gulf Coast and its residents are still recovering from the disaster, with job losses in fishing and tourism, and massive fish kills as oil finds its way into our shores and ocean bottoms. The environmental, economic, and social impacts from the spill will be felt in years to come.

The Gulf of Mexico and affected coastal communities need federal resources for restoration and recovery. Funding these resources can come from Clean Water Act penalties, creating a Gulf Coast fund whereby penalties from the BP spill go directly towards restoration projects, and securing immediate funding under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process. We also support the creation of a permanent regional community council to guide recovery efforts and ensure continued community driven oversight of the offshore oil industry.

In wake of the disaster, we must ensure full accountability by the oil industry. A portion of oil and gas industry profits should be directed toward ocean protection and restoration. Long term funding can be provided for independent, peer-reviewed science to supplement federal and state research to obtain a full assessment of the BP spill's impacts on Gulf of Mexico resources like fisheries and marshes as well as seafood and public health monitoring.

A third generation Alabama fisherman who was a part of the Gulf contingent in DC last week expressed concern about the safety of the seafood industry as fishing waters re-open for the first times following the spill. The industry faces challenges ahead to not only restore the fishing stock but also to restore public perception about the safety of Gulf seafood.

The BP disaster reinforces the need to move America beyond oil dependence towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. The BP spill demonstrates the certainty that there will be adverse economic and environmental outcomes as drilling continues. Instead of more offshore drilling, we should be building a 21st century transportation system, and investing in the kind of clean energy that will create jobs and infuse new life into our economy.


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