Post-Oil Spill Recovery: Who Benefits?
This week, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus released his plan for coastal-restoration efforts, which includes a Gulf Coast Recovery Fund to pay for the cleanup. Progress, right? Maybe. And maybe not.
If you want to know whom Mabus has been listening to, you can probably start with Landrieu. On the day Mabus announced his plan, she took credit for most of it, declaring, "The report issued makes many of the same recommendations that I have been making since the oil spill began."
One of her top priorities has been to get President Obama to lift the moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling. She argues that the moratorium has cost the state jobs, despite all evidence to the contrary. She, in fact, is blocking Obama's nomination of Jack Lew to head the Office of Management and Budget until the moratorium is lifted. Just yesterday, she reinforced her position in a floor speech to the Senate, saying, "My hold on Mr. Lew's nomination will remain for the same reason it was placed originally: The administration has not acted to lift its ill-conceived moratoria on offshore drilling that are having such a devastating impact on working people and small businesses throughout the Gulf Coast." But such grandstanding on her part doesn't reflect the concerns voiced by hundreds of fishers put out of work by the oil spill over the last five months.
"I'm not in agreement with that," says the Rev. Tyrone Edwards, head of the Zion Travelers Community Center, and former head of the Fishermen and Concerned Citizens of Plaquemines Parish. "I think that is Sen. Landrieu catering to big-business interests. The people I know are for the moratorium, at least until the safety issues are addressed."
Those who are out of work should be the primary people Mabus listened to. In this period of massive unemployment, the post-oil spill recovery can be an opportunity to address fish and seafood loss, wetlands loss and job loss simultaneously.
Such appeals were made in August when Oxfam America released its "One Gulf, Resilient Gulf" report, which represented a wide spectrum of voices across the Coast. Oxfam, along with other organizations such as Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club and Gulf Coast Fund, brought people to the town halls Mabus attended. The groups called for living-wage and career-track jobs, fair contracting practices for minorities and support for workforce-development programs that have proved effective since Katrina.
"America needs a healthy Gulf Coast, and this plan has the potential to create tens of thousands of new livelihood opportunities restoring coastal ecosystems and building more resilient communities," says Rhonda Jackson, director of Oxfam America's Gulf Coast Recovery Program. "We encourage them to target investments in training and economic development to assist vulnerable Gulf Coast communities, especially fisherfolk, low-income workers and people of color in finding pathways toward opportunity in these new markets."