Not that I am blaming anyone — the idea of causing a potential delay (or worse, a clog) in an opportunity to throw a lifejacket around a (literally) drowning ecosystem is a risk that is hard to stomach. Yet after witnessing “activities” by Gulf states and local agencies concerning federal funds received from six years of hurricane disasters, it comes as no surprise Gulf Coast residents might fear a future of wasting away in KatrinaRitaville, searching for our lost coastline.
“When they took money that should have been for rebuilding the houses, and used it for the port [of Gulfport, Mississippi]… it was a huge misappropriation of funds, orchestrated by people who were not even from the Coast,” explains Long Beach resident Fritzi Presley. “[RESTORE Act money] is restoration money, it is intended to be used for restoring what was there, instead of providing for what can be,” she added.
Another important note is that 80 percent of nothing is still nothing — as Presley says, “There isn’t even any money yet.” The amount of funds available to coastal communities is yet to be known. If the Department of Justice decides to settle with BP, it could fall within a low estimate of $15 billion to a high of $25 billion. I bet you can guess the amount for which BP is shooting. Alternately what may happen (that is, if every analyst and Tarot card reader in the country is wrong) is that the United States, through the DOJ, and BP go to trial, leaving it to the courts to decide punitive damages. Of course, that would assuredly mean a larger amount of fines for BP and more funds available for the Gulf Coast.
Personally, going to trial is the option I like best. Not just because I look forward to the truth of how this disaster was handled coming out in deposition, but more because Keith Jones, father of killed oil worker Gordon Jones, has stated publically he would like it to be so. In my opinion, every one of those families deserves closure. Most importantly, how are we going to learn from our past if we do not honestly and completely investigate our mistakes? Sadly, sometimes for a corporation — especially for a repeat offender like BP — court is the only place the truth has a chance to surface and any real consequence be administered.
At any rate, even the DOJ end of the estimate is low-balled. According to an article by Antonia Juhasz, the real final bill for a letter-of-the-law itemization of fines BP owes is $192 billion. Although a $167 billion difference in fines may sound like going to trial is the obvious path, the trial isn’t even set to begin until January 13, 2013, and carrying it through would further delay the date on Gulf states’ deposit slips.
Whatever the final sum, the full magnitude of RESTORE will go far beyond the text of the act itself. How far in its address to the ecological needs of our often polluted, and regularly slighted region will be very much up to the citizens and advocates of the Gulf Coast, and beyond. As our not-so-long-ago history proves, ultimately the question of effectiveness will only be answered through a fair and unapologetic system of transparency and accountability in each Gulf state.
Truly, for Gulf advocates and citizenry, the real work of recovering from the disaster is just beginning.
Cherri Foytlin is a journalist, oil worker’s wife, mother of six, and Louisiana resident whose family has been deeply impacted by the BP Oil Disaster and consequential moratorium on deep water drilling. She co-founded Gulf Change, blogs for BridgeTheGulfProject.org, and walked to Washington D.C. from New Orleans (1,243 miles) to call for action to stop the BP oil disaster. She has been a constant voice, speaking out to the Obama Administration’s Gulf Oil Spill Commission, and in countless forms of media. Cherri will continue her fight for the industries, people, culture and wildlife of south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast “until we are made whole again.”
This post was originally posted on Bridge the Gulf.
Photo: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson
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