Is this ‘Making Us Whole?’


Yesterday, I read that the EPA is potentially lowering its estimate of how much oil from BP’s Macondo well gushed into the Gulf of Mexico last summer.  BP’s responsibility could potentially be minimized if this happens.  As Americans, we need to demand that our government continues to hold BP accountable and insist they pay for the damage that was done and will continue for years to come.
Photo ©2010 John Wathen, Hurricane Creekkeeper
There are three pockets of money due to come back to the Gulf to aid in what we call Restoration, what BP calls “making us whole”.  They are as follows:
1) The $20 billion set aside for Ken Feinberg to dole out in his clear as mud, quixotic magic 8-ball method (depends on who you ask); 
2) Natural Resource Damage Assessment which can’t be complete without thousands of miles of shoreline assessed for every potential impact over a reasonable enough period of time to be sure there isn’t a fishery collapse like there was a couple of years after Exxon Valdez in Alaska; and 
3) the Clean Water Act fines.
The Clean Water Act fine money could be the best andcleanest way for the five coastal states to be able to do environmental restoration projects that will have a lasting impact on our resiliency and our economy, that will put folks to work almost immediately and doesn’t require much more scrutiny than a commitment for the projects to be “shovel ready” and actual environmental/ecological restoration (not roads or condos). 
Unfortunately, there are 3 problems with this money:
1) The money, by law is slated for the federal general fund, not the impacted areas; 
2) There is a potential for the per barrel fee to be too soft on BP.   By law, the fee can range from $1,100 to $4,300 based on the level of negligence found.
3) The number of barrels defined is “spilled”.
Mobile Baykeeper has followed this disaster from the beginning when we were told that the BP well was gushing into the Gulf a mere 1,000 barrels per day.  That number was quickly dismissed and upgraded to 5,000/day with the BP folks visibly shaken on camera by the honesty of our government officials.  Before it was all over, the number was slated as high as 80,000 barrels per day.  If you multiply it out by the 87 days it took to drill and cap it and use the lower range, we’re looking at about $8 billion to divvy up among the states hardest hit by the BP and company’s negligence.
The $20 billion already set aside is for individuals and businesses effected directly and financially.  The Clean Water Act and NRDA monies are set aside for environmental restoration because that will actually be the key to long-term economic recovery for those individuals and businesses.
If, however, we let our government officials get side-swiped by BP and allow them to pretend like they didn’t actually spill very much oil, we are giving away our only opportunity for real and immediate restoration.  Yes, BP just had their first financial loss in their history – in 2009, their profit was 16.578 billion and in 2010, they are down 3.719 billion – thatnumber includes setting $20 billion aside and paying for the cleanup costs, and more.  This is not the time to feel sorry for BP.  This is the time to hold BP’s feet to the fire and demand they make full restitution for all that they did to destroy an entire season of fishing and tourism on the Gulf, thousands of families and businesses, countless birds, fish and fauna along the coast.  They should pay fully for what they did to our Gulf and we must insist they do.
--Casi Callaway, Mobile Baykeeper
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