Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ways to save the Gulf Coast

Concrete ways to save the Gulf Coast: Kindra Arnesen

Published: Wednesday, April 20, 2011, 6:15 AM
Contributing Op-Ed columnist 
Oil Spill AnniversaryMICHAEL DeMOCKER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNEClint Dauphinet of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries turns a shovel of oiled sand Tuesday, April 19, from just beneath the surface on a sand spit island near South Pass to show that oil remains in coastal marshes one year after the BP oil spill.
I've lived my whole life down in the bayou. I've shucked oysters since I was a teenager, and now I'm proud to be a fisherman's wife with two beautiful children. I wouldn't live anywhere else. But our lives got turned upside down the day the BP well blew a year ago, and they've never been the same since.
Our community has suffered greatly over the past year. Many of our fishermen worked on the oil spill cleanup and got sick from the toxic fumes of the oil and chemical dispersants. Our livelihoods are threatened by oil in the water that still washes in as tar balls and oil mats off our shores. Some of our marshes remain heavily oiled, and it's not clear when they will ever be clean again.
So you would think that a year after the greatest oil disaster in American history, our political leaders would have jumped into action to pass laws to keep anything like this from happening again. Sadly, the answer is no. In fact, our politicians seem more concerned about shutting down the government than they do about helping the very people who elected them into office.
So last week, I went to Washington to talk to my congressional delegation about passing legislation that enacts recommendations of the presidential oil commission, protects us from future disasters and rebuilds our rapidly eroding coastline.
We need to create an independent offshore safety authority to increase the role of science to determine which areas we need to protect from drilling and improve our oil spill response plans, which are painfully inadequate. And most of all, we need to take immediate action to make sure the blowout preventers and equipment on our oil rigs are safe and work as designed.
Congress owes it to all of us to make sure the industry is held accountable for future oil spills. Currently, oil spill polluters are only required to cover $75 million in damages resulting from an oil spill. That's less than 1 percent of BP's $14 billion profit in 2009. The $75 million liability cap doesn't even come close to the true cost of these catastrophes.
Offshore oil drilling is a dirty, dangerous business. But the current laws on the books simply don't hold companies responsible for the risks they are taking while they make bigger profits every year.
My brother worked in the oil fields, and many people I know closely do, too. They deserve better protections from our political leaders so a blowout never again puts our livelihoods at risk.
We along the Gulf have suffered the most from this political indifference. Our lawmakers need to place a higher value on the safety of our community and the survival of our threatened fisheries along the Gulf coast.
After all, we provide jobs for our community and help feed the people of this country. We demand that our lawmakers make sure we can continue to do so.

Kindra Arnesen, a Venice native, will be featured in a film produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council called "Stories from the Gulf." It will premiere on the Discovery Channel's "Planet Green" on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

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