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A Year Later, BP's Oil Is Still Damaging the Gulf Coast

Monday, 18 April 2011 10:15 By Sue Sturgis, Facing South | Report
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A Year Later BPs Oil Is Still Damaging the Gulf Coast

Oil streaks a giant log on the beach near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, on August 2, 2010, one example of the devastating after-math of the BP drilling disaster. (Photo: Jeff Haller / The New York Times)

As the one-year anniversary of the BP drilling disaster nears, the American public has largely turned its attention away from the Gulf Coast.

But for the people and other living creatures who make the region their home, the oil spill's impacts are still being felt acutely today.

In an effort to correct the misperception that the BP disaster is over and the 200 million gallons of oil that spill into the Gulf of Mexico have magically disappeared, staff with the Louisiana-based Gulf Restoration Network last week took reporters on a tour of areas that are still heavily impacted by BP's oil. The tour went from Myrtle Grove, La. to areas including Bay Jimmy, Barataria Bay, Queen Bess Island and Grand Terre Island -- many of the same areas that Facing South visited with GRN last summer.

"The marsh in Bay Jimmy is still heavily impacted in most areas that we viewed," reports GRN organizer Jonathan Henderson. "The grass is coated in oil, roots are exposed, and oil can be seen seeping up through the soil. It was an ugly and disappointing sight indeed."

The pelicans on Barataria Bay's Queen Bess Island -- an important rookery for Louisiana's once-endangered state bird -- appear to be doing OK, but Henderson notes that the long-term impacts of oil exposure on birds' reproductive systems remain unknown. And by killing the marsh grass along the island's coastline, the oil is exacerbating the rate of land loss -- and raising concerns that the island could disappear into the Gulf within five years.

Meanwhile, Congress has failed to take action to address the problems revealed by the BP disaster. Henderson says that has got to change.

"Congress should put the Clean Water Act fines back into the Gulf ecosystems affected by the BP drilling disaster and establish a Regional Citizens' Advisory Council," he says. "These reforms are essential to the recovery and protection of the Gulf and the nation."

GRN has organized a letter-writing campaign calling on Congress to step up and do the right thing for the Gulf. For more information, click here.

Sue Sturgis

Sue is Editorial Director at the Institute for Southern Studies, which she joined in November 2005 as director of the Institute's Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch, a project to document and investigate the post-Katrina recovery. A former staff writer for the Raleigh News & Observer and Independent Weekly (Durham, N.C.), Sue directs and regularly contributes to the Institute's online magazine, Facing South, with a focus on energy and environmental issues. Sue is the author or co-author of five Institute reports, including Faith in the Gulf (Aug/Sept 2008), Hurricane Katrina and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (January 2008) and Blueprint for Gulf Renewal (Aug/Sept 2007). Sue holds a Masters in Journalism from New York University.

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