Wednesday, June 4, 2010
Written by Walter Pierce
Louisiana got BP’d by oil. Can the relationship withstand the stress?
This is far from over — economically, environmentally and culturally.
There are no raggedy refugees or sunken cities. No looting or roaming vigilantes. No apocalyptic mayhem for the hovering television camera. Just the tide, rising and falling in the marsh and lapping at the beach. And tens of millions of gallons of crude oil still out there.
Now it’s hurricane season, which may not be a bad thing.
Time will tell whether the Deepwater Horizon disaster ascends to the very high bar set by the 2005 assault from the tropics. But it is a terror nonetheless.
Two thousand five was a calamity, but it was a wrenching, cacophonous wreck of howling wind and bleating babies. A made-for-television tragedy. This oil spill is a cancer — slow, silent, creeping, black death. It lurked off the coast for a month before coming ashore, like an axis army massing on the border. It is anthropomorphic now, a shape-shifting entity with a dark heart releasing its toxins in metered torture.
Astonishingly, it took a month before BP transmogrified into a verb, as in, “You really BP’d that up!” And it deserves to get traction in its new grammatical life. Most indications are that BP threw precaution to the wind, underplayed the magnitude of the crisis and has been left-footed in its reaction, calculating liability every slippery step of the way.
Our oyster beds will continue to get poisoned, the marshes where shrimp spawn polluted. Fleets remain idle at the dock. It isn’t Chicken Little hyperbole to anticipate Louisiana’s seafood industry hobbled for the next two to five years, or to wonder how the thousands of people who earn their living in it and from it will ride it out.
It’s not just the people who fish, many of them southeast Asians who traded the upheaval of war 35 years ago for an eternity of tropical and industrial threats. It’s the suppliers, the truckers, the warehouse workers, the net makers and net menders, the dishwashers and waitresses, the charter operators, the shuckers and boat mechanics, the mom and pop businesses that sink or swim with the coastal economy. Will BP’s liability extend to them, and to what extent?
It’s the oystermen in this week’s cover story, the Collins family; stewards of Caminada Bay, a chief source for Acadiana’s restaurants. For them, a two- or three-year hiatus from harvesting could be enough to break a chain five generations long. Five generations, choked by the very thing that has been the wellspring of Louisiana’s tenuous prosperity.
And we run the risk of conflating deepwater drilling with drilling period, and that could have an even more profound effect on South Louisiana. Within days of the explosion, share prices fell as investors backed away from the independent operators, the smaller companies that explore, drill and extract oil and gas in shallow waters. The companies that are a crucial strand in the web of explorers, drillers and suppliers employing so many of us here in Acadiana. The companies that are not BP or ExxonMobil.
If the liability becomes too great, the insurance costs too high, many of the independents could be driven out of business. BP will not be liable for that catastrophe.
The complex relationship between our state and the oil industry is being put to a stress test. Oil has padded our pockets, endowed our universities and patronized our arts. And it has sliced our coastline to ribbons and blackened our beaches and marshes.
So we ask ourselves: Is getting BP’d acceptable every 20 years? Every 50? Or is it simply unacceptable?
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The Houston firm said Friday in its weekly report that 1,575 rigs were exploring for oil and 338 for gas. One was listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,776 active rigs.
A crew began erecting the 25-foot mini-wheel late morning Friday in anticipation of the evening’s Hottest Night of the Year party at the park.
Frances Boothe of Nunez, who also happens to be filmmaker Stephen Meaux’s grandmother, prepares a cool-weather fave.
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The LPSB is poised and ready to move forward with the termination of Pat Cooper following a discussion Thursday with the attorney hired for the investigation of the superintendent, but a decision of this magnitude should be left up to the new board seated in January, especially with three pro-investigation board members bailing out come the new year.
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Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
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Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
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The Acadiana Center for the Arts and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority have announced a new artist stipend program, ArtSpark, designed to offer financial aid to local artists.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
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