Bracing for Oil to Hit the Gateway to the Atlantic
(Shrimp boats conducting in situ burn training under USCG. Photo: USCG Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley.)
A black current is swirling toward Florida’s shores.
Thursday, May 20, the oil slick from the gusher was a mere 70 miles from Pensacola, on Florida’s northwestern coast, and 285 miles from St. Petersburg, on the state’s central west coast. (NOAA)
It’s been a month since the explosion rocked Deepwater Horizon platform, killed 11 workers, and left the ocean floor hemorrhaging. Already, the thick gobs of crude have made their way into the marshes of Louisiana.
Now that the ominous mass is on the move in the Gulf’s loop current, Florida is bracing.
Thousands of volunteers are ready to pitch in to the fight. They’re signing up, training up, and standing by, waiting on the authorization of BP and the U.S. Coast Guard to deploy.
But to their dismay, like all dealings with the feds, it’s a big game of hurry-up-and-wait.
KeysSpill.com is an organizing hub for volunteers in the Florida Keys islands. Though they are the farthest down the projected path of the invading oil slick in the Gulf, people there are mobilizing now.
(Oil slick on May 18. Photo: NASA.)
So far, KeysSpill has wrangled about 300 ship captains 2100 volunteers, arranged for HAZMAT and other requisite training, and partnered with numerous groups, including the Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and several others. They have contacted BP and USCG officials in order to join their task forces.
(HAZMAT cleanup near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Photo: Deepwater Horizon Response via Flickr.)
The response is nil.
“You would think that they’d say, ‘Hey that’s great, we want to get you all out there,’” said Dan Robey, the founding director of KeysSpill, “but so far that hasn’t happened.”
Robey has tried repeatedly to contact them, to coordinate his volunteers’ placement and to hopefully receive financial assistance for their pre-training. He has had no luck so far.
Volunteers and paid workers would be operating under the jurisdiction and leadership of USCG and BP, ostensibly within an incident command. BP’s apparent primacy of authority has put a bitter taste in many mouths.
In one incident, CBS news correspondents who were reporting on an oil-covered beach in Louisiana met a boat full of BP contractors and two Coast Guard officers. The news crew was ordered to leave, or be arrested. One contractor said,
These are BP’s rules. They’re not our rules.
Already unimpressed with the potency of response from Obama and MMS, many Americans are vehemently displeased with a corporation dictating the authority of the Department of Homeland Security.
“It’s like putting the elephant in charge of the peanuts,” said Robey.
With a lackluster response from the U.S. government, which has been disappointing at best and threatening at worst, the real power is in the will of real people.
It is sad, but typical, that the work must be done, and the story told, in spite of the leaders at the helm.
(“You do your job, pencilneck. Don’t tell me how to do mine!” Photo: Columbia Pictures.)