"We envision the Gulf of Mexico RCAC commissioning its own research and providing recommendations and information to government and industry on all aspects of oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico, including exploration, production, shipping, storage, transportation, spill prevention and response, and environmental monitoring," said Dr. Bonny Schumaker, another of the coordinators for this meeting and a Gulf Coast resident whose nonproOit OnWingsOfCare.org has provided aerial monitoring in support of offshore and coastal ecology since 2010.
Drew Landry elaborated: "Our goal is to make it safer for those who work, live, and play in the Gulf. We'll use lessons learned from the BP disaster together with independent science to make sound recommendations to industry and government, and we'll provide training and equipment for impacted and capable citizens to help protect our lands and waters."
Schumaker added: "A working RCAC benefits everyone - it lowers the risk of future pollution incidents as well as costly future litigation, it improves future spill responses, and it builds trust and communication with local citizens."
Delegates proposed a budget for the GoM RCAC of at least $10 million per year, to be funded through the existing federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF), thus not directly costing Gulf of Mexico oil industry operators or taxpayers. The OSLTF currently has over $2.7 billion from a nationwide 8-cent-per--barrel fee on oil.
"The Gulf citizens' meeting yesterday was historic, and it's a real shame the oil industry did not participate," said Rick Steiner, a former University of Alaska professor who helped form the Alaska RCACs and who participated in the New Orleans meeting. "We can't undo the damage from the Deepwater Horizon, but we can and must do everything possible to prevent and better prepare for future such disasters and other oil impacts."
Regarding the fact that industry invitees all declined to attend the meeting, Ms. Jackie Antalan of Mobile, Alabama said, "Ignoring us won't make us give up. The Gulf Coast needs this citizens' advisory council. We've waited three years for Congress to act on the recommendation from the oil spill commission, and now we've decided to act on it ourselves. We're thinking it through, we'll propose agreements to industry and government representatives, and we'll ask Congress to adopt legislation as they did for Alaska to mandate and support the council's existence."
Referring to the highly successful RCACs formed in Alaska after the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, whose annual budget is over $4 million per year, Ms. Kindra Anderson from Buras, Louisiana said, "Why should we accept less than Alaska received? We have more miles of vulnerable marsh and coastline, we have more industry activity in the Gulf, and we carry far more risk. We have enormous resources to offer in order to protect our waters and coastline, and we need to have a say in things."
The meeting concluded with strong commitments to continue the development of strategies for citizen involvement in addressing impacts to human health, fisheries, and the environment; in responding to future pollution incidents; and in advocating prompt Congressional legislation to establish and maintain the GoM RCAC.
Sharon and David Gauthe, who lead an interfaith organization in southeastern Louisiana, stated: "With an RCAC, we can feel assured that our next generation will have their voices heard."
Representing fishermen and other citizens from Mississippi, Ms. Thao Vu spoke for all present when she stated, "Citizens here deserve greater empowerment and a legitimate voice in the safe management of the Gulf oil industry. A regional citizens' advisory council (RCAC) is a constructive and reasonable way to accomplish this."
Contact for information:"-Dr. Bonny Schumaker Tele: 626- -383- --1412
On Wings Of Care is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of wildlife, wild habitat, and natural ecosystems. Founder and President Bonny Schumaker, Ph.D., is retired from 22 years as a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She's also a former Continental Airlines pilot and has been an FAA flight instructor for over 15 years. Combining her skills as pilot and scientist with her passion for wildlife, Dr. Schumaker has clocked nearly 600 hours of flight time over the Gulf of Mexico, documenting the status of wildlife, coastal wetlands, and offshore waters.
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