Congress: Pass the Restore Act and Save The Gulf
For the past two years, Friends of New Orleans has been working with a diverse cross section of key Louisiana coastal leaders* and Global Green, in order to educate people about what is happening along the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Oil Spill. In September 17, 2010, FONO organized a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington DC to give a voice to these leaders. Following this, on September 22, 2010, FONO presented the DC briefing testimony to a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative Gulf Coast Action Network in NYC. Then on October 26, 2011, FONO took these Louisiana coastal leaders to San Francisco and had them present at an event for Bay Area donors, community and environmental activists, and business investors. And, on March 20, 2012, FONO re-convened the coastal leaders group in New Orleans in order to celebrate the passing of the Restore Act in the US Senate. Based on our work with these leaders, we appeal to the American People to help us move the following agenda forward by:
1. Calling your US Congressmen and asking them to Pass the Restore Act which will be voted on possibly this week, on Wednesday, April 18, 2012.
2. Writing to Louisiana Governor Jindal and asking that the State's Master Plan for Coastal Restoration include: a) meaningful participation and buy-in by local leaders/residents that were affected by the spill in the decision making process and implementation of the plan; b) a requirement that restoration contracts go to the local people, organizations and companies that suffered the most from the spill; c) mitigation for those whose livelihood will be affected by master plan actions such as diversions; d) more in-shore testing and research of coastal and Gulf ecosystems and wildlife; and e) investments in innovative solutions to coastal restoration, such as carbon markets, and for economic development in that region, such as aqua culture and hydroponics.
Please help our message go nationwide by going to the Change.org website and signing our petition. Send the following link to everyone you know:
What Those Outside of Louisiana Need to Know and Understand:
- The oil is not gone! BP used large volumes of a highly toxic chemical dispersant in an attempt to "sink" the oil and give the appearance that the oil is gone. Just the opposite occurred and the Gulf's ecosystem - from the surface of the water to the bottom of the ocean floor - will be affected for years to come. There has been a dramatic increase in the mortality rate of many species and stories of how sick marine life and vegetation, within the water column and along the ocean floor, have been reported by coastal residents, sport and commercial fishermen, shrimpers, oystermen, recreational boaters, eco-tourists, naturalists and scientists alike.
- Upper respiratory infection, headaches, seizures, abdominal pains, high blood pressure, fatigue, heat intolerance, memory loss and paranoia. These complaints have remained relatively uniform and have come from people, across a five state area, who have been exposed to the oil and chemicals associated with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
- Many residents in coastal Louisiana have lost jobs and their health insurance, and are coping with depression and physical health problems as well.
- Many residents feel that elected leaders, at the local, state and federal levels, are sacrificing Louisiana's coastal communities for the sake of oil.
- Decisions are being made in Washington by people who have never been to Louisiana, much less understand what is happening to these coastal communities.
- The uniqueness, diversity and cultures that make up New Orleans and the coastal areas of Louisiana are at stake.
- The estuaries of Southern Louisiana are the nursery for the entire Gulf.
- Louisiana's coast contributes heavily to the nation's economy (i.e. energy, transportation of goods to the heartland, seafood, culture, etc.).
- New Orleans/Coastal Louisianan's do not want a hand out. They want government to:
- make their communities and The Gulf "whole" again;
- protect and restore this precious ecosystem/natural resource;
- provide/foster an environment of opportunity so that Gulf Coast residents can earn a living/ sustain themselves;
- "do no harm"; and
- make informed decisions with local resident input that are based on independently researched science/data, not politics.
- It will take longer to recover from this BP spill than it did to recover from the hurricanes that have hit coastal Louisiana in the past 5 years. (i.e. Hurricanes destroy infrastructures that can be rebuilt relatively quickly. The spill has destroyed an important ecosystem/natural resource that takes decades to restore.)
2. What Louisiana Coastal Leaders Want BP to Do (or not do):
- BP needs to be fully engaged in the recovery of the Gulf region until all the oil is completely cleaned up, all related damage fixed and the residents, who live off of this ecosystem, are made whole.
- BP monies need to go to those that have been most impacted by the spill (i.e. individuals, communities, businesses, nonprofit organizations, etc.).
- A significant amount of the BP monies needs to be set aside to pay for the specialized doctors, medical tests and treatments that are needed by those who live and work in the coastal areas who are experiencing physical and mental health problems as a result of their exposure to the chemicals and toxins from the spill and the subsequent clean-up efforts.
- BP should not be in control of the disbursements of these monies nor should BP - or any energy industry representatives, or elected leaders, or administration officials - be making the key decisions on how this money will be used or the region's future.
3. What Louisiana Coastal, and Environmental, Leaders Want/Recommend Moving Forward:
- The nation needs to make a serious commitment to restoring and protecting the wetlands, coastal areas and the Gulf of Mexico, and the ecosystems that exist in these.
- BP needs to be held accountable.
- We need a local resident/private citizen only led board or commission to be created that will be in charge of making the key decisions moving forward. Such a decision making body would ensure that: i) there is buy-in and input from those locals that were impacted the most by the spill; ii) that there is transparency throughout the decision and grant making process; and iii) that the money is directed to the most critical areas.
- Decisions with regard to the recovery and future of this region should be made based on independently researched science/data,not politics.
- Enforce the oil drilling safety laws that exist and develop new ones where there are "gaps". Any fines that are levied as a result of the spill, and that are related to the Clean Water Act, should be funneled back to the Gulf communities and not to some "coffer" or general fund where the money will be lost forever. Maximum fines should be implemented so that the recovery of the ecosystem can begin.
- Support for the RESTORE ACT is needed. We need national support so Clean Water Act fine monies are utilized to fix the damage done by the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the impact of decades of this region providing oil/natural gas as well as the benefits of shipping for the rest of the nation.
- Ensure a thorough and accurate NRDA process.
- Review of the Gulf Coast Claims Process, which to this point lacks transparency and has not been conducted fairly.
- Coastal restoration should result in community jobs in coastal restoration thus community restoration as well. Ensure that there is local hiring in restoration activities and ensure that ecosystem restoration is linked to the economic recovery of heavily impacted coastal communities. These contracts should not be placed in the hands of outside companies that were not directly affected by the spill. Recovery contracts need to go to the local individuals, companies, organizations and communities that not only were greatly affected by the spill, but that also have the most knowledge of the area.
- National Emergency Grants, much of which remains unspent in the Gulf Coast states post oil-spill, must be linked to work related expenses, training and hiring of local residents to upcoming ecosystem projects, like the early NRDA projects.
- Communities need a strong voice. To ensure increased and ongoing citizen involvement, the Citizens Advisory Council (CAC) should be well integrated into decision-making, have proper access to data and must be properly resourced.
- Recognize the disproportional impacts of this event and coastal land loss on the poor and socially vulnerable.
- Few doctors are considering exposure to these toxic chemicals as the root cause of ailments being reported by local residents. Begin a more comprehensive study of the people who are ill in the coastal areas, and do assessments of the success of the chemical detoxification treatment programs that are currently running.
- An effort needs to be made to bring these problems into the forefront of medical care, as the politics of toxic chemicals has prevented any significant assessment of these problems in the past. We need to have this information to be able to write that new chapter in our medical books describing these illnesses and their symptoms, with recommendations for treatment.
*We want to thank and recognize the following organizations and individuals for working with FONO over the past two years to advocate for the restoration of the Gulf of Mexico, and Louisiana's wetlands, coastal areas and barrier islands (bios are available by clicking this link):
Houma Nation - Brenda Dardar-Robichaux, Community Leader and Former Principal Chief; Thomas Dardar Jr., Principal Chief
Kirk Cheramie, Manager and Program Director of the Houma Nation Radio Station
Atakapa-Ishak Tribe - Rosina Philippe, Tribal Leader and Director of Grand Bayou United
Grand Bayou United
Gulf Coast Fund - LaTosha Brown, Former Executive Director; Brenda Dardar-Robichaux, Board Member
Anna Marie Seafood LLC - Lance Nacio, Commercial Shrimper and Leader of the White Boot Brigade
Louisiana Bayoukeeper, Inc. - Tracy Kuhns, Executive Director and Commercial Shrimper
Mary Queen of Vietnam CDC - Father Vien, Founder and Chairman of the Board; Diem Nguyen, Executive Director; Tuan Nguyen, Deputy Director
Bayou Grace Community Services - Courtney Howell, Former Executive Director; Rebecca Templeton, Executive Director; Diane Huhn, Environmental Outreach Coordinator
Redfish Lodge of Louisiana - Capt. Mike Frenette, Lodge Owner and Director of Charter Boat Assoc. Louisiana Charter Boat Assoc. and President of the CCA of Plaquemines Parish
CCA of Plaquemines Parish
AmeriPure Oyster Company - John A. Tesvich, President
Louisiana Oystermen Association - Byron Encalade, President
Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO) - Sharon Gauthe, Executive Director; David Gauthe, Legislative Liaison; Patricia Whitney, Environmental Advocate
Market Umbrella - Richard McCarthy, Executive Director
LaCoastPost.com - Len Bahr, Founding Editor and former LSU coastal science professor and coastal science and policy advisor in the Governor's office of Coastal Activities
Bob Marshall - Outdoors Editor for the Times Picayune and Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist
Marie Gould and Bernice Kaufman - Founders of Huddled Masses (Marie started Lost Land Kayak Tours)
Carolyn Leftwich - Bywater Community Leader and FONO Community Outreach Volunteer
Global Green USA - Matt Petersen, President and CEO; Beth Galante, Executive Director of Global Green New Orleans
Oxfam America - Minor Sinclair, US Regional Director; Jeffrey Buchanan, Senior Domestic Policy Advisor
FONO Board Members (Past and Present) Involved in Advocating for Coastal Restoration:
CC Lockwood - Award Winning Nature Photographer (National Geographic, Ansel Adams Prize), author and leading conservationist in Louisiana
James Carville - CNN Senior Political Commentator, Political Consultant, Chief Campaign Strategist for President Clinton, Talk Show Host, Author, and Film Actor/Producer
Mike Tidwell - Author of "Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Climate Action Network
Stephen DeBerry - FONO Chairman, Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Bronze Investments, Partner at Kapor Capital, Former Investment Director at Omidyar Network
Denise Byrne - FONO Executive Director and Founding Board Member