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November 18, 2011

The Boys Are Back in Town

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It seems that since April 2010, Big Oil has done everything it can to return to business as usual in the Gulf. Thanks to political cover and hand-holding, industry has done a good job getting there. Top Oil CEOs, executives, and fellow contractors have declined to testify before the House Natural Resources Committee regarding the findings of the joint Interior-Coast Guard investigation into the BP oil disaster.  Additionally, 13 deepwater wells have been leased to operate in the Gulf, the most since the moratorium was lifted and double the monthly average from 2006-2009.  All the while, Congressional Gulf Coast legislation continues to lack the strengthening reform that it so desperately needs. 

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and other Democrats on the Committee attempted to subpoena the CEOs of the companies involved with the disaster, but the request fell short as all 17 Republicans on the Committee decided the CEOs should be protected from testifying again. The leasing of 13 deepwater wells has been even more divisive, as some feel it is an indicator of industry advancement, while others are frightened by the new pace of permit issuance. Either way, it is disconcerting that such shifts in political protection and industry development are occurring while Congressional legislation aimed to help Gulf Coast citizens continues to lack strong enough language to ensure transparency, accountability, and independent science that the public trusts. These strengthening components are all instrumental in making sure meaningful restoration of the Gulf actually occurs and protects the region from future disaster. 

Most importantly, a Science Advisory Committee needs to be established to provide independent input on restoration project selection, implementation, and monitoring of coastal restoration and initiatives.  Additionally, a permanent Regional Citizen’s Advisory Council (RCAC) needs to be created, composed of community leaders and stakeholders from the Gulf Coast to provide oversight of the oil industry. Our leaders in Congress need to protects citizens and coasts, not the interests of Big Oil. A year and half later, the pace has picked up. Just not in the right direction. 

-- Charley Gaber, Sierra Club Louisiana Intern

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