Gulf Coast Issue Update: One Year Since the Oil Spill

Since my last update, residents and tourists crowded the streets to see New Orleans at its finest. check out these photos of the Zulu parade on Mardi Gras day and the Bacchus and Endymion parades, held the Sunday before Mardi Gras. But it's not always about Mardi Gras. I’ve got another update for you, touching on Jazz Fest, the oil spill recovery efforts and the latest on off-shore drilling.

  • The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival kicks off this month, on April 29th, spanning two weekends. The all-star artist lineup includes: WilcoThe StrokesRobert PlantJohn Legend,The RootsArcade FireWillie NelsonMichael Franti & Spearhead and Galactic. Jazz Fest has also announced unexpected acts like Bon JoviJohn Mellencamp and Kid Rock, additions that put the festival on a decided path toward the mainstream. This genre shift has received generally positive reactions. As an article on Nola.Com said, “To remain vital, festivals require fresh blood. For 2011, the New Orleans Jazz Fest has administered itself a full-on transfusion.” The article went on to say that the chatter on has been upbeat. Last year, news of the BP Oil Spill and a giant black slick were just beginning to spread as Jazz Fest got underway.
  • A year later, Gulf Coast residents seeking recovery claims from the BP fund are expressing extreme frustration with the process currently in place. One boat captain reported that his deck hands got up to $30,000 each, while the owner and employer of three shrimp boats got $1,000. Claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg has been called out for red tape, a lack of transparency and intentional delays. Many feel that Feinberg and the fund, along with BP, are delaying payments to spill victims in order to force them into further financial hardship with the hope they will accept a lower settlement.
  • Meanwhile, The New Yorker published a lengthy article that painted a generally positive picture of the response and cleanup (this, mind you, in a magazine known for muckraking and chronicling corruption and incompetence of those in power). Author Raffi Khatchadourian said that while there was “fragmentary, anecdotal” evidence to the contrary; BP and the government led a largely successful and well-coordinated effort to “prevent a large amount of oil from hitting land.” It involved forty-seven thousand people and nearly sixty million man-hours, constituting “the largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country.” Then again, not everyone is ready to exonerate BP. The company is currently being investigated for possible criminal charges relating to the April 20th explosion that killed 11 men.
  • Last year’s spill sparked the debate on deep sea drilling off of U.S. shores. Because of safety concerns, people across the country are divided on whether or not the practice should be allowed to continue. Even the people of the Gulf Coast differ in these opinions. The Obama administration recently expressed their opinion on the issue by approving the first deep sea drilling permit in the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. This is good news for those in need of work along the Gulf Coast, but has also drawn criticism because - among other reasons - the well's oil spill response plan is dated 2009, not incorporating any of the harsh lessons learned last year.

I hope that all NOLA-lovers, wherever you are, raised a glass to the Big Easy during Mardi Gras! Spread the word about what's happening in the Gulf, share your stories and send anything my way that you think I should include in the next update.