VENICE, La (Reuters) - Louisiana’s governor on Sunday blasted energy giant BP and the federal government for failing to act fast enough to protect the state’s coastlines from a massive undersea oil leak.
The U.S. Coast Guard and BP were slow to make decisions and delayed supplying necessary clean-up equipment even as oil washes onto the state’s fragile marshland, Governor Bobby Jindal said.
“It is clear the resources needed to protect our coast are still not here: boom, skimmers, vacuums, jack-up barges are all in short supply,” Jindal told a news conference in Venice.
“Oil sits and waits for clean-up and every day that it waits for clean-up more and more marsh dies,” said Jindal, whose words were echoed by a number of local officials.
Jindal said he was “frustrated” by the slow pace and said the delays were “unacceptable.” He called for the Coast Guard to delegate more authority to local leaders to protect their own parishes.
Oil from a blown-out BP well in the Gulf of Mexico has been gushing into the sea for over a month. Jindal said he had been told a new BP plan to seal the well would be implemented on Wednesday.
Already, oil had tarred 65 miles of the state’s coast, he said.
In one example of delay, parish presidents had put in an urgent request to the Coast Guard on May 3 for 5 million feet (1.5 million meters) of hard boom to stop oil before it hits the coast but so far only around 800,000 feet had been supplied, Jindal said.
He also raised the pressure on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to grant permission for the construction of a series of sand levees and said he was “passionate” about the issue.
“Silence on this plan is the equivalent of saying: ‘we will just clean it (oil) out of the wetlands,’” he said, arguing that the dangers of inaction were far greater than possible risks of associated with construction.
“BP is responsible for paying for this but they should not have veto authority over the dredging plan or any of the other plans that are being proposed by the parish or by the state,” he said.
State and local leaders want to dredge sand from the sea floor and erect up to 80 miles of levees, which reinforce, extend and in some cases join barrier islands to impede the progress of oil into the marshlands.
Experts on the coast including conservationists and academics have deep doubts about the plan, arguing it would take too long to implement and could alter the Mississippi River delta’s balance between fresh and salt water.
Editing by Eric Beech