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Eyeless Shrimp and Fish With Tumors: The Horrific Consequences of BP's Spill

Despite mounting environmental and health consequences, not to mention the death of 11 workers, no executives have received jail time.

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All this money in petroleum has a huge impact on politics in Louisiana, just as it does on a national and international level. It's probably impossible to get elected to any Louisiana office without courting petroleum dollars and making campaign promises to that industry. A visit to the petroleum friendly website for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources reveals the following section titled "Legacy Liability Reform."

This "Legacy Liability Reform" is less likely to ensure any protection for Louisiana's resources or its citizens than it is to assure petroleum companies that Louisiana and its resources are theirs for the taking. The reform is code for "don't worry about liability because immunity for really bad stuff is all part of the deal for investing in Louisiana." Oh, by the way, the Louisiana courts have been very protective historically of petroleum interests as well.

From the 1950s on, drilling for oil and gas on federal lands and waters has produced the second largest source of revenue for the federal government besides taxes. This has led to a rather cozy relationship between the federal government and those corporations that extract petroleum here. Let us not forget that since the inception of the Minerals Management Service (now renamed The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement to emphasize what it should be doing) has been involved in numerous scandals. For example, in 1990, MMS employees were linked to prostitution, and in 2008 the Department of Interior's Inspector General reported that MMS employees were engaged in both drug use and sexual activity with employees from the very energy firms they were to be regulating. This wasn't just the foxes guarding the chicken coop, but the foxes actually in bed doing lines of coke with the chickens.

Clint Guidry, President, Louisiana Shrimp Association, spoke at the summit about the political ramifications of the spill and the unlikelihood of real justice coming from the government case. Mr. Guidry had worked for BP earlier in his career like so many Louisiana men have. He knows intimately both the oil industry and the fishing industry. When the spill happened, the Louisiana shrimping was devastated. First, Guidry lobbied for jobs for all the shrimpers when the fisheries closed. Then he fought for jobsite safety for the workers and community residents impacted by the clean up. Guidry's role became that of witness to the harms on fisherman response workers when they began to suffer from being exposed to aerial application of the chemical dispersant and being downwind from burn sites of the surface oil. For instance, on May 26th seven shrimpers from the offshore response crew were admitted to West Jefferson Hospital with chemical poisoning. Two days later, after Obama's May 27th visit to Grand Isle where he was photographed picking up tar balls, two more shrimpers were air-lifted to West Jefferson Hospital for emergency medical treatment, also for chemical poisoning. Guidry met with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the US Coast Guard, the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, and with other government representatives from the local to the federal including Secretaries Napolitano and Salazar and US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Mr. Guidry still has the following unresolved questions:

  1. Why did we allow people who caused oil spill to be in charge of the clean up? Everything they did was to limit liability, not to protect the environment, the resources or the people.
  2. How could the government announce on August 5, 2010 that suddenly 75% of the oil had disappeared? Corporations run this country and they operate under The Golden Rule: Who holds the gold makes the rule.
  3. According to statements made by Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves, BP is choosing the direction of the environmental damage assessment. Shouldn't the Oil Spill Recovery fund be administered independently so it could fund real scientists like Dr. Whitehead?
  4. Oil companies are good at covering up spills and sinking the oil with additional chemicals, but they are no good at cleaning up spills. If we are allowing these companies to drill in the Gulf, shouldn't they be required to have the technology to prevent disasters and to clean them up? They don't.
  5. Even after the largest loss of life and oil, no laws have been changed. Eleven men are dead but I don't believe anybody will go to jail. The government is the keeper of the record of the criminal investigation and if they settle the case, the public will never see that information. If the record is not made public in a trial, how we learn from this spill?
  6. I'm a third generation fisherman. We were the first environmentalists because if you don't take care of the environment, it doesn't take care of you. I love wildlife. The spill has devastated wildlife. What price do you put on a dead dolphin?
  7. The head of Minerals Management Service at the time of the BP disaster came from big oil. She was fired by Obama and MMS was split up but no one else was fired. Is that enough house cleaning? Can these people keep us safe when they have failed in the past?

As the federal government and affected states including Louisiana move toward trial or settlement, we should all be asking these questions.

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