Louisiana and the U.S. Government trade barbs over the response to the 2010 BP Oil Spill

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January 15, 2011

By Eileen McGuire-Mahony

A hefty report to the President finds blame on both sides, but Louisiana is taking issue with the Administration's side of the story

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana: With the first wave of official reports on the April 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana's Republican Governor, Bobby Jindal, is taking heat for his role in the cleanup and aftermath of the disaster.

Jindal, one of the most popular sitting governors and widely expected to hold his seat easily in Louisiana's November 2011 elections, is accused by a new report of 'showboating' in his concern for the Gulf coastline. Officials from numerous states, from governors down to municipal officers, are fighting for the biggest chunk of federal dollars promised to fight oil spill effects in the Gulf. Governor Jindal has made constructing a sand bag fortification to block oil from reaching the shoreline a personal policy goal.[1]

National media have highlighted an accusation in the report that alleged Jindal deliberately withheld the location of an oil soaked marsh that he used as an interview site, preventing Federal responders from cleaning the beach so that he could maximize the political value of the site as a backdrop for media appearances in which in he repeatedly blamed the Federal government for failing to provide enough help.

Jindal's office called the accusation “ridiculous” and pointed out that the Governor had a Coast Guard liaison with him as he traveled the state during the spill. A spokesman also asserted that every contamination site the Governor knew about was reported to the Coast Guard, going so far as to create an online database of all spill sites.[2]

The report, a 400 page behemoth from the National Oil Spill Commission, calls out local officials and the media for letting politics and the chase for ratings get in the way of maximizing the response to the spill.[3] Garrett Graves, Jindal's adviser on coastal issues, shot back that the Federal government, desiring to control the entire response, gave short shrift to “Cajun sensibilities”.[4]

Lurid accusations against specific officials have also detracted from a major finding of the Commission, that 'containment booms', bright orange floating barriers meant to trap oil, were distributed more in line with political clout than with respect to greatest concentrations of oil. Further, the report concluded the booms did little good regardless of placement.[5]

Louisiana's U.S. Senators, Republican David Vitter and Democrat Mary Landrieu, both praised the report. Landrieu is soon to introduce Congressional legislation that would direct the lion's share of any penalty money BP pays over to restoring the Gulf, something the report also called for. She also reversed her early concerns that the Commission's finding might harm an industry vital to Louisiana. Vitter, however, qualified his comments by saying business in the Gulf is at a standstill months after the spill, causing ongoing economic harm.[6]

As Lousiana gears up to redistrict, having lost a Congressional seat, the future of the entire Gulf coast is on the table, with calls to keep the shoreline in a single District and thus maximize the attention it receives clashing with the political reality of seven Congressmen bound to fight for six seats in 2012.