One Year Into Oil Disaster, Promise to Restore Gulf Remains Unfulfilled

“The oil is still here, the promises are forgotten, and Congress still hasn't done its job”

04-20-2011 // Miles Grant
Oiled marsh clean up

Today marks one year since the blowout on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and caused unprecedented environmental devastation. The rig sank two days after the explosion and in the months that followed, the resulting gusher released more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The disaster dealt yet another setback to an ecosystem already besieged by years of wetlands degradation and the destructive power of Hurricane Katrina.

Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise departed with NWF President and CEO Larry Schweiger and other conservation leaders from Myrtle Grove Marina in Louisiana today to get an up-close look the oil damage in Barataria Bay and Bay Jimmy by boat.

The group is working together to urge Congress to pass legislation dedicating Clean Water Act fines and penalties from the disaster to restoring Gulf Coast wetlands and ecosystems.

One year into the Gulf oil disaster, the oil is still here, the promises are forgotten, and Congress still hasn't done its job,” said Schweiger. “The only fair and right solution is for those fines to go to the Gulf region to help the people and communities hurt by the disaster. A healthy Gulf ecosystem will lead to economic recovery.”

After countless hearings, Congress has also failed to pass legislation improving the safety of deepwater drilling. As the oil industry is raring to return to business, it is all too obvious that spill containment methodology has not kept pace with advances in deepwater drilling technology. The same decades-old methods used during the Exxon Valdez cleanup 22 years ago were deployed in the Gulf - with similar results.

As regulators continue to hand out permits allowing oil companies drill to unprecedented depths, we must be certain that they also possess the means to quickly and efficiently seal off another catastrophic gusher,” said Schweiger.

The Oil Lingers

Oiled marsh

After spending a day touring Louisiana’s Bay Jimmy this week, Dr. Doug Inkley, senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, said, “We saw marshes still covered in more than an inch of oil. Crews were scraping oiled sediment, one bucket load at a time.”

The oil is the latest onslaught on Louisiana's disappearing coastal marshes and islands. Some 2,300 square miles of land have been lost thanks to more than a century of subsidence, channelization, dredging, and erosion, much of it associated with oil and gas development.

“Louisiana's wetlands continue to be sacrificed to satisfy our country's addiction to oil,” said Inkley. “If we're going to give a decent future to the Gulf Coast's wildlife, wetlands, commercial fisheries and the very way of life of local residents, the only answer is implementation of a comprehensive plan for large-scale restoration of coastal wetlands and ecosystems.”

Dr. Inkley’s recently released report, The Long Road to Recovery, examines the Gulf oil disaster’s impacts on key species and habitats and the efforts and actions that will be necessary to ensure continued restoration into the future.

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