By Becky W. Evans (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A day after EPA chief Lisa Jackson landed in Lousiana, I followed her to a small fishing port at the southern tip of the state, where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
The two-hour drive from New Orleans to the port of Venice brought mixed views of cattle ranches, oil refineries and egret-infested estuaries. My journey ended at the Venice Marina, the self-proclaimed “fishing capital of the world.”
After a boat tour of oil-soaked coastal marshes, Jackson joined me and fellow journalists at the marina for a short press conference in the sweltering afternoon heat.
Jackson described the tour as “heartbreaking.”
“I saw literally pools of oil staining those marshes,” she said, noting that the wind was favorable and blew the oil out to sea making it easier for cleanup crews to collect.
She said she wants BP to make major cuts, between 50 to 80 percent, in the use of toxic chemical sprays to break up surface oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill. The dispersants have unknown impacts on the sensitive marine environment. With deep-sea spraying underway, there is little need to attack oil floating on top of the Gulf with the same chemicals, she said.
“The use of dispersants means we are inevitably making environmental tradeoffs,” Jackson said. She announced that EPA is now searching for a less toxic dispersant after BP failed to provide an alternative to the Corexit dispersants used over the last 30 days. (Corexit was pre-approved by the EPA.)
After the press conference, I spoke with Capt. Mike Frenette, who once chartered fishing trips for tourists who wanted to reel in red fish, blue marlin and other saltwater species.
Since the oil spill, fishing bans have put a stop to his business and that of the other 50 or so charter boat captains who keep their boats tied up at the Venice Marina.
“Our business is shut down …we are not allowed to fish,” Capt. Frenette said. He and the other captains are on standby to earn some money assisting BP with the oil cleanup, but the work is limited. Frenette said he has only worked four days since the April 20 spill.
On my ride back to New Orleans, I passed a house with a red sign reading, “Damn BP.” Another sign thanked all those who are “helping with the oil spill.”
Here are some photos from the day: