Residents Still Search for Answers in BP Oil Spill Disaster

While the oil may appear to be gone, the nation's worst environmental disaster is still being felt by residents.

By Jamilah King Apr 19, 2011

Wednesday marks the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill disaster, which has gone down as the nation’s worst environmental catastrophe in history. Brentin Mock, who reported extensively for after the spill, wrote at The Root this week that the region still needs long-term restoration and swift government intervention to address the immediate needs of families — black, white, brown and everything in between — whose livelihoods are still in peril:

Much as the Katrina floods compelled America to pay attention to the decades of neglect and economic inequality in New Orleans, the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout brought into focus the legacy of degradation and pollution that has troubled Gulf waters for generations. The rotten-pie tar balls dotting the beaches are just another of many entries in a history of injuries.

America can’t afford to keep the Gulf on injured reserve for too long, though. The Gulf Coast supports a $34 billion tourism industry and supplies the nation with 40 percent of its seafood. This is a working coast of fishermen, energy producers, restaurant owners, hotel managers, shipbuilders and tour guides. The Gulf generates a gross domestic product output of $2.3 trillion each year and employs more than 20 million people.

….The Gulf communities need something better. President Obama and Congress can take leadership and assure that BP be held fully responsible for the mess it made. Congress can order that Clean Water Act fines — the per-barrel-spilled penalty against BP that could total as much as $20 billion — are applied to Gulf restoration.

Also see Mock’s photo essay from last year on the area’s forgotten black fisherman.

Lynette Holloway also details just some of the obstacles Gulf Coast families face even when they do try to get compensation for their losses.

The oil company BP, which took responsibility for cleaning up the disaster, set up a $20 billion spill-recovery fund to help business owners and workers recover losses. But claimants are complaining that the agency charged by the Obama administration and BP with disseminating payouts — the Gulf Coast Claims Facility — has been slow to pay, which has impeded recovery, dramatically impacting their quality of life.

Members of Kenner Calvary Baptist Church in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans, even joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and held a sleepover outside BP’s offices in Houma, La. last moth to protest the payment process.

Gulf Coast lawmakers have also spoken out against the slow-moving recovery efforts. "Quit dragging your feet and stalling the large majority of claims to a point where victims are so desperate that they settle for anything," Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange wrote in the letter dated March 21, according to The Root. "Remember, your job is to compensate the victims — not magnify their problems by playing games with BP’s money (to BP’s benefit)."