Spilling Off the Page

By BECKY W. EVANS (reporter.evans@gmail.com)

Oil spill headlines grace the front pages displayed outside the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C.– During my pilgrimage to the Newseum on Monday, I found it impossible to stop thinking about the ever-expanding oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico — and my delay in writing a post about the disaster  for ThreeBeats.

After all, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the perfect ThreeBeats story: an event that impacts the environment, commercial fisheries and immigrant communities (think Vietnamese and Cambodian shrimpers).

Outside the museum’s Pennsylvania Ave. entrance, I found a display of the latest front pages from newspapers around the country. Many of them bore grim headlines detailing BP’s failed attempt to cap the blown-out oil well, where an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil gushes daily into the Gulf. Inside the museum, a giant news ticker flashed Associated Press headlines updating the latest plans for testing the effectiveness of deep-sea chemical dispersants.

Determined to contribute to the Deepwater coverage, I took a break from my tour of the six-floor museum and phoned into a press briefing staged at the Unified Area Command center in Robert, Louisiana. The briefing featured representatives from BP, the Coast Guard and the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service, which are among the many agencies coordinating the oil spill response and cleanup. I was most interested in hearing from Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry, the federal on-scene coordinator. Earlier in her career, Landry oversaw the federal response to the 2003 Bouchard oil spill in Buzzards Bay, Mass., where up to 98,000 gallons of thick, fuel oil spilled from a Bouchard oil barge that drifted out of the shipping lanes and struck an underwater ledge.

For seven years, I have covered the progress of the Bouchard oil spill cleanup. I am wondering if Landry’s experience managing the response to the Buzzards Bay spill has influenced her approach to this much larger spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately Monday’s press briefing ended before I could pose this question to Landry, but I have since submitted my request to a Coast Guard petty officer working out of the command center in Robert, La.

Landry’s comments during the briefing reflected determination in tackling the oil spill at sea, and confidence in cleaning up any pollution that reaches land. “We’re ready for this should it come ashore,” she said.

Check out this slideshow of oil spill headlines from the Newseum display:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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2 thoughts on “Spilling Off the Page

  1. Emily

    Interesting take on the tragic spill. To what do you attribute your delay in writing about it? It’s rather paralyzing, no?

  2. Dottie Mark

    Hi Becky,
    Again, kudos on a good article about that awful oil spill in the Gulf. It just seems as if BP is not able to stop it and I think I heard today on NPR that the oil was reaching the Mississippi shore line..I keep visualizing the wildlife that had been affected in the Alaskan spill and how awful that was.
    How long will you be in DC?
    Take care,
    love,
    Dottie

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