The gulf coast oil spill has produced a wellspring of concern about Gulf Coast Recovery from people across the nation, including Jimmy Buffett, who hopes to boost tourism in the area, and Pearl Jam, who released this music video to benefit Conservation International's Marine Programs. There's plenty happening, both positive and negative, that keeps the region at the forefront of the nation's mind:
- The best news to come out of the Gulf Coast region in months just came in last week! BP has finally succeeded in stopping the flow of oil from the Deepwater Horizon. But BP is still taking heat for allegedly making it difficult for people who have lost their jobs because of the spill to collect payouts. They've actually reduced payments for at least 4,000 people, only made payments to 100,000 people total, and are accused of paying out of work fishermen less than they would have earned had there been no spill. The initial BP checks, for the record, were $5,000 a month for fishing boat captains, $2,500 a month for deckhands, and $1,000 for those who could not show adequate proof of earnings. Not exactly a big chunk of the $20 billion set aside for recovery.
- Perhaps America's view of BP is best summed up in this facetious story in The Onion, headlined "Massive Flow Of Bullshit Continues To Gush From BP Headquarters." BP stands accused of keeping the press and the world from seeing the most affected areas. As one former BP employee-turned-whistleblower said in an interview: "They kept it very strict what they wanted the media not to see, and what they wanted them to see. Where the media was actually given access to really was kind of mundane." He also said company officials made it perfectly clear to contractors that they would lose their jobs if they spoke to reporters. Check out these images taken from an unauthorized journalism mission to Isle Grande Terre, Louisiana.
- In Florida, like all of the other states that line the Gulf, the $60 billion a year tourism industry is suffering. According to Visit Florida President, Chris Thompson, almost 75% of hotel reservations have been canceled in the state. All of the Gulf States, and some of the cities within them, have been urging BP and other agencies and organizations to grant more money in order to boost tourism. The effect of grants though, is in question. In Florida for example, tourism continues to decline, even after a $25 million gift from BP to the tourism industry.
- While the public is being told that BP is covering all of the spill-related expenses, a published report out of New Orleans said that the U.S. government has allocated $300 million in emergency spending for spill cleanup, and plans to get that money from… ready for this? Hurricane Katrina recovery funds. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to rescind about $400 million in promised housing rehabilitation money, claiming to need the money to offset other emergency response, including spill recovery.
- There is, however, uplifting news and stories emerging out of New Orleans of a city re-building and music returning. The landmark Orpheum, a 90-year old theatre, has a new owner that plans to reopen the doors of the venue. No timetable has been set but let's hope it's before next year's JazzFest.
There are still many ways in which we all can help. Dave Matthews, Lenny Kravitz and other celebrities are asking Americans to sign a petition demanding that "a plan to restore America's Gulf be fully funded and implemented for me and future generations." Read about it, sign the petition if you'd like, and view the VIDEO here on the HeadCount blog. You can also stay up to date on Gulf Coast Recovery every day by following us on Twitter. We live in interesting times, so we'll bring you some interesting reads.