Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal used photos of oiled pelican eggs to express his outrage at the ineffective efforts of BP and the Coast Guard to stem the spill. (Photo by Kim Hubbard)
5/25 UPDATE: Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell tells Corps of Engineers state has emergency powers to build barrier islands, and orders it under the 10th Amendment:
Caldwell advised Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers, that under the U.S. constitution the federal government does not have the legal authority to deny a state the right to conduct such emergency operations to protect its citizens and territory….
Caldwell ends [his letter by] advising Antwerp to direct the New Orleans District of the Corps of Engineers to issue emergency permits. He also warns that if the district office “persists in its illegal and ill-advised efforts” to block the construction of the barriers, he will advise Gov. Bobby Jindal to go forward with the plans and challenge the Corps authority in court.
By Justin Nobel
Venice, Louisiana, May 23
“We can fight this battle fifteen miles off our coasts,” belted Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, in a furious and desperate press conference held on the docks this afternoon in Venice, hub for the Deepwater response, “or we can be cleaning oil out of our fragile marshes for months or years.”
At his side, a young staff member held a poster board with pictures: an adult pelican doused in black oil, a colony of partially oiled pelicans, pelican eggs smeared with oil.
Jindal fired off a list of complaints with those handling the spill and energetically proposed solutions, continuously castigating BP, the Coast Guard and the Army Corp of Engineers. Communities have requested boom and none has come, or it has arrived after oil has already slicked their beaches, or boom has been available but boats intended to lay it have been idled by BP. Over the weekend in Grand Isle, a summery barrier island community that got doused with oil starting Friday
, the mayor took matters into his own hands, commandeering a fleet of fishing vessels under BP contract to lay boom around sensitive marshes.
Jindal’s main focus was that the Army Corps of Engineers immediately approve the state’s effort to construct a series of offshore sand barriers to protect the Chandeleur Islands, Barataria Bay and Timbalier Bay. Within these areas are vast wildlife-rich marshes.
Following Jindal an agitated lineup of south Louisiana parish presidents took the mic.
“As you can see, our worst nightmare has come true,” said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, a hefty man dressed in red. Nungesser insisted the barriers be erected immediately, without regards for future environmental concerns. He held high a crumpled printout of an oiled dolphin and mentioned a pair of sea turtles brought in the night before that were literally choking on oil.
“This is an absolute tragedy,” said Nungesser. “Where are the leaders in the Corps? In the Coast Guard? In BP? All we’ve heard from them is excuses. I am so disappointed in these agencies.”
Next was the mayor of Grand Isle, a bearded man with a thick drawl. “You listen to me good,” he warned leaders of parishes not yet affected by oil, “don’t wait for BP!”
Little was off limits for him. “Right now they have a dredge sitting off Grand Isle,” he said. “You don’t know how bad I want to go and take that thing as a pirate and start moving sand.”
The president of Saint Bernard Parish, a buff bald man whose domain lies east of New Orleans, spoke next. “The lesson learned by Katrina, Rita, and later, Gustav and Ike, is if we wait, we will die,” he said. “I don’t have a crystal ball, but if I were a betting man I’d bet the plan was to let us die, then come back and do $75 million worth of cleanup.”
“Either the Coast Guard has to side with its American citizens and protect its communities,” he continued, “or it has to side with a major world corporation named BP and betray American citizens.”
The tone was ratcheted down a bit by the slow-moving grandfatherly Saint Mary Parish president, who repeated five times: “BP, step up to the plate and be a man!”
A man on the verge of tears from the town of Jean Lafitte followed: “Other places around the world must be laughing at us because we have oil coming into our marshes and yet we must do an environmental study.”
When this blogger asked Jindal what his concerns were about moving forward with the sand barrier plan so quickly and why Jindal thinks the risks of oil outweigh those concerns, the governor pointed to the photo of the oil-smeared pelican eggs. “This is the danger of not acting,” he said. “We’re fighting a war here against this oil, and we’re going to do everything it takes to protect our coasts.”