Louisiana Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao, left, with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at Houma-Terrebonne Airport where they departed together on a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft to view the huge oil slick approaching the Gulf coast as a result of a drilling platform explosion.
Washington, D.C. (April 30, 2010) – Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on Friday contacted U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to request the declaration of a commercial fisheries failure as well as support from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration for commercial and recreational fishing businesses.This declaration will provide financial assistance to individual fishermen, assistance for the restoration of fisheries and assistance for commercial and recreational fishing businesses.
“We stand with America’s fisherman, their families and businesses in impacted coastal communities during this very challenging time,” said Secretary Locke, in an NOAA statement, which is a bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce. “Fishing is vital to our economy and our quality of life and we will work tirelessly to protect it.”
The Governor also sent a letter to U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills requesting the activation of all appropriate federal disaster declaration clauses that would enable the SBA to assist the small businesses in the state that will be impacted by the oil spill.
Specifically, the Governor requested that the SBA consider temporarily suspending loan repayments for coastal businesses that are impacted by the oil spill and also those who have 2005 and 2008 SBA disaster and economic injury loans as a result of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav.
Louisiana Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao last week called on Congress and the Obama administration to direct every available resource to contain the huge oil slick now beginning to wash ashore along the Louisiana coast.
Since the 1980s, thousands of Vietnamese refugees have settled along the Gulf coast to continue a similar livelihood of the old country in the shrimping and fisheries of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. They have endured and overcome racism from competitors and are now the predominant ethnic group in some communities.
Other challenges, according to the NOAA Fisheries Service, are with learning and understanding conservation regulations and maritime laws to prevent overfishing to sustain the industry with ever increasing demands.
Vowing to use every tool at his disposal to contain the spill, Cao warned failure to mount an effective response will result in “the worst environmental disaster in Louisiana history and possibility the history of the nation.” He introduced legislation calling for accelerated oil revenue sharing with the federal government.
“BP and the administration must understand what’s at stake for our wetlands, our commercial fishing industry and our economy,” said Cao. “There is no overestimating the devastation this spill could have if it is allowed to penetrate our already-fragile wetlands, starving oxygen from aquatic life and killing more coast. The potential consequences are truly scary.”
Cao, who became involved with Hurricane Katrina relief work five years ago, and who himself lost his home, said the federal government failed them back then and that he would “not stand by and let the government fail us again.” He said an effective response will require short term emergency action and long-term investment.
His bill would speed up the timetable for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas to begin increased sharing of revenue from drilling leases and royalties under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006. Under the current timetable, the states are set to begin collecting 37.5 percent of royalties from new leases in 2017.
Currently, they receive little or nothing. Cao’s bill will call for the revenue sharing to begin immediately.
“Every day, Louisiana sacrifices its coast and puts its environment at risk to feed the nation’s insatiable appetite for oil,” he added. “Fifty percent of all oil reaching the nation’s refineries crosses Louisiana’s coastline. It’s only fair that the state be compensated for the costs we are incurring to produce so much energy.”
Earlier this week, Cao called for two Congressional hearings into the spill. He is asking the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and its Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, to investigate the environmental impact of the spill. He is asking the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to look into the government’s safety inspection practices and policies on offshore oil rigs.
Cao had already sent letters requesting hearings to leaders of both the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
In his letter to the leadership of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Cao called for an inquiry into the environmental impact of what could be “one of the worst spills in U.S. history.” A third leak was discovered from the underwater well yesterday. The well was found to be discharging 5,000 barrels of oil a day, or about 210,000 gallons. That’s five times the amount originally estimated.
According to experts, the slick, which has already grown larger than the state of Rhode Island and getting bigger all the time, could reach land Friday night, posing a major environmental threat to Louisiana’s already fragile coastline.
In his letter to the leadership of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Cao called for an investigation into the federal government’s policies, procedures and practices for safety inspections, certification and management of offshore oil rigs.
Cao pointed out that the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service had given the Deepwater Horizon “favorable security reports during its last three routine inspections and gave the rig a safety award last year.” Cao said, “This tragic incident raises a number of critical and fundamental issues that require immediate Congressional attention.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has restricted fishing in federal waters affected by the BP spill, which are largest near Louisiana and Mississippi. The commercial fishing season in the Gulf was just set to begin and delays the livelihood of many Southeast Asian Americans that together with all fisheries harvest approximately 1 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish a year.
“NOAA scientists are on the ground in the area of the oil spill taking water and seafood samples in an effort to ensure the safety of the seafood and fishing activities,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, NOAA Administrator, who met with more than 100 fishermen in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish on Friday night. “I heard the concerns of the Plaquemines Parish fishermen as well other fishermen and state fishery managers about potential economic impacts of a closure. Balancing economic and health concerns, this order closes just those areas that are affected by oil. There should be no health risk in seafood currently in the marketplace.”
Roy Crabtree, NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Administrator said the Gulf is an important biologic and economic area in terms of seafood production and recreational fishing.
“There are finfish, crabs, oysters and shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico near the area of the oil spill,” said Crabtree.