News / USA

Gulf Coast Officials Call for Leadership in Oil Spill Response

Local mayors and parish leaders from parts of Louisiana devastated by the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico testified before a Senate Homeland Security panel Thursday. The local leaders blasted the response by oil company BP and the federal government and called on Congress to establish clear lines of authority in dealing with the crisis.  

A Senate homeland security subcommittee held a hearing Thursday to assess the local impact of an oil spill caused by the explosion of a Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

The President of Lousiana's Plaquemines Parish, Billy Nungesser, called on President Barack Obama to put someone with courage in charge of the response to the massive spill, saying someone has to be able to take action much more quickly. "I still don't know who is in charge - is it BP, is it the Coast Guard?  When I get mad enough at a meeting, the Coast Guard in our office stands up and says 'I can make that happen'."  When I throw a BP official out of my office, he comes back the next day and approves something.  I have spent more time fighting the officials of BP and the Coast Guard than fighting the oil," he said.

The parish leader called on BP and the federal government to quickly deploy more boats with vacuuming equipment to suction up oil from the fragile marshlands in his parish.   And Nungesser said it was an insult when officials simply fly over the oil-coated waters.  "You can't see it from the air.  You got to go down there and touch it.  You got to pull into that marsh and see there is absolutely no life, everything is dead.  I will make you a prediction; we will lose more coastline from this disaster in Louisiana than we lost from [Hurricanes] Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike combined," he said.

Another local leader, David Camardelle, the mayor of the barrier island community, Grand Isle, said people in Louisiana are better equipped to deal with the ravages of a hurricane than this massive, man-made disaster. "Anyone in Louisiana can protect anybody from hurricanes.  I told the president that, you send me anywhere in the world, you give me 10 days, I can make a difference with hurricanes.  But right now, my hands are tied.  I am dealing with an oil company; we have no say-so," he said.

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida agreed with the local leaders present at the hearing that it is not clear who is in charge of the response operation.  He said that officials in Florida were not even warned Wednesday when oil began entering Florida's waters.  Nelson called for the U.S. military to take a greater role in the response effort, saying it has the best command-and-control system in the world.  He said the way things are running now is not acceptable.

"How many more examples of this do we have to say until the command-and-control structure is changed.  You cannot leave BP in control of this, because they are not going to get it done," he said.

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen is leading the federal response to the spill.  He said on Thursday that he and other government officials would meet with BP to discuss damage claims problems.  Out-of-work oil rig crews, shrimpers, oystermen, seafood businesses and others affected by the spill are complaining that they are waiting to be compensated by BP for their loss of income.  At the hearing Thursday, the Vice President of Strategy for BP America, Raymond Dempsey, defended his company's response.

"Senator, I will assure you that BP is not delaying the delivery of resources to support this response.  It is important to note that in the unified command structure there is indeed a decision-making process.  As part of that unified command, we have to operate within that process, and we are supportive of providing all the resources necessary to address this spill," he said.

Dempsey said it is clear that Admiral Allen is in charge of the response efforts, and that BP has already paid some 20,000 claims and spent a total of about $1.4 billion to date on damages and the clean-up effort.  Congress is continuing to hold hearings on the oil spill, and President Obama met with leaders of both houses of Congress to discuss the disaster Thursday.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs