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Life Arts

BP Oil Disaster Victims Vow Never to Forget

By Rocky Kistner  Posted by Mac McKinney (about the submitter)     Permalink
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Originally posted here at NRDC by Rocky Kistner, NRDC staff member and writer

Update: Linda St. Martin's court appearance in Oceans Springs, MS, has been postponed until Dec. 15th. Local groups are planning to turn out to support her then.

Down in the Louisiana bayou, the fall season is changing with the north winds. Millions of ducks, geese and migratory birds are arriving as they have throughout the millennia. Shrimp are slowly abandoning the nourishing coastal marshes as cooler water pushes them out to sea.

On the surface, life appears normal. But all is far from normal more than six months after the worst maritime oil spill in history. Many residents here are in a fight for their lives. Things have not changed much for them since that fateful day on April 20 when the Deepwater Horizon blew a fireball of oil and gas into the air, killing 11 men and creating 87-day gusher of undersea oil that captured the world's attention.

Now the press is gone and the world has moved on. But fishermen and businesses in the Gulf are struggling. Demand for once-prized Gulf shrimp and crab is as low as a brown pelican skimming the sea searching for its next meal. The American public isn't buying the PR campaigns or government claims that the seafood is safe. Fishermen are are having a hard time paying their bills after the most disastrous season since Katrina.

Photo by Rocky Kistner/NRDC

Meanwhile, the clean-up work continues at a slower pace. Many locals are being laid off from work, sometimes replaced by cheaper, out of area contractors. That doesn't sit well with folks around here.    

"There's a war brewing down here," says JJ Creppel, an out of work fishermen who never got a chance to work for BP's lucrative cleanup program. "BP doesn't know what they've got on their hands. People have had enough."

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Money is tight and the BP claims process is mired in a morass of thousands of missed payments and public confusion. The local press is now supporting the removal of the once exalted claims czar Ken Feinberg. The Mobile Press-Register called for Feinberg's ouster on Sunday, featuring a political cartoon of the Boston lawyer garbed in a bird suit feeding crumbs to pigeons. Cartoonist JD Crowe blogged on it this way:

Fly away, Ken Feinbird. 

Your BP claims droppings have been an insult to the good folks on the Gulf Coast whose livelihoods are dying as a result of the oil spill disaster. You promised fair and fast payments. You may as well have promised fuzzy puppies and unicorns. 

You've been paid millions to make payments to oil spill victims from BP's $20 billion feed bag. You seem to enjoy holding the bag more than spreading the love. We know you're getting paid to pay. Are you getting paid more not to pay?  

You're just another buzzard. Fly away and feast off the bones of someone else.  

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Complaints over claims payments isn't the only gut-wrenching problem for residents down here. Many look out into the choppy Gulf waters and wonder what happened to the 200 million gallons of oil spewed into the sea. Is it largely gone like many government officials are saying? Could hydrocarbon-eating bacteria really be that ravenous? But many think much of the crude is still there, lurking on the bottom and rolling in with the tides. Science has yet to provide the answer and likely won't for many months to come.

Mistrust among residents and fishermen continues to rage. 

"I call it the immaculate deception," says Louisiana Shrimp Association President Clint Guidry. "Nothing's really changed here since the beginning as far as getting real information."

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