According to local Louisiana officials, private contractors are deciding how to deal with the black tide of BP’s oil. On Sunday, June 20, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser told members of the New Orleans City Council that private contractors are trying to block access to oil-slicked marshes and are keeping pelicans covered in toxic sludge for days before cleaning them. When Nungesser follows the established chain of command to raise concerns, they “never get an answer back.”
Nungesser said that a private contractor blocked Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) entrance to a contaminated area, and tried to do the same with Nungesser and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA). The contractors hired to run the decontamination of wildlife — possibly the oil-industry-funded International Bird Rescue Research Center — are leaving oiled pelicans to sit in sludge for days before cleaning, Nungesser charged. They’re “making up their own rules,” he said:
We had a meeting here yesterday because the person that BP hired for the animal thing refused David Vitter entrance. He tried to keep me and the governor out with the coach of the LSU Tigers, and I took the chain and said, “Get out of the way. We are coming in.” He just said, you know, they want to keep you out. It is a contractor by BP. What’s happening is they are making up their own rules. I was out there with Anderson Cooper the other night. They let him on the grounds. When I showed up they said, “If we knew he was coming, we would not let you in.” It’s my land. They can’t stop us. It’s the parish land. They’re making up rules, like taking these pelicans, and they’re saying, well we leave them for five days with the oil so they calm down. I’m like, “Show me where that’s a rule, it’s not true.”
Watch at C-SPAN.org.
Nungesser and the members of the New Orleans City Council agreed that the state and federal government needs to take more direct control of BP’s army of contractors, and establish a more responsive command-and-control structure. The Center for American Progress has outlined practical plans for how the government can step up and protect our nation from the BP oilpocalypse.
NUNGESSER: We had a meeting here yesterday because the person that BP hired for the animal thing refused David Vitter entrance. He tried to keep me and the governor out with the coach of the LSU Tigers, and I took the chain and said, “Get out of the way. We are coming in.”
ARNIE FIELKOW: How are you doing? Nice to see you. Hi, how are you?
NUNGESSER: He just said, you know, they want to keep you out. It’s a contractor — talking about the bird place. The state and federal wildlife people — to find out that it is a contractor by BP. What’s happening is they are making up their own rules. I was out there with Anderson Cooper the other night. They let him on the grounds. When I showed up they said, “If we knew he was coming, we would not let you in.” It’s my land. They can’t stop us. It’s the parish land. They’re making up rules, like taking these pelicans, and they’re saying, well we leave them for five days with the oil so they calm down. I’m like, “Show me where that’s a rule, it’s not true.” You might want to leave them for hours or overnight if they’re really upset. But five days is not …
PATRICIA CLARKSON: There are hundreds of people waiting to come and help, wildlife experts waiting to come to our shores. Why are they not here?
NUNGESSER: There was a group from Australia told to come, we need your help. They got to Venice, they walked up, and well we don’t need you, go home. From Australia. And the guy came to see me. Here’s what they’re doing. They’re expanding. We asked them to add another bird place in the Myrtle Grove place it’s shorter. You don’t have to transport the birds for forty minutes.
What’s happening is they’re trying to keep their amount of work spread out. An area might get inundated, they bring in a hundred birds and they clean them up as short as possible then they’re out of work for three days. And or they don’t want to work long hours.
They keep three or four pens for the pelicans. They will keep them up for a week, that is inexcusable. And that is what they’re doing. They’ve got pens there, and you can see the pelicans that have not —
P. CLARKSON: covered with oil for days …
NUNGESSER: For four or five days so they calm down. They can’t move because they’re covered in oil.
P. CLARKSON: Covered with oil for days? who made that decision?
NUNGESSER: That’s a contractor.
P. CLARKSON: That is a BP decision. That is not a wildlife expert. What about the young man on Anderson’s show, I cannot remember his name, but he was saying that they’ve got teams of people waiting.
NUNGESSER: We’ve asked that it be taken away from the contractor, and put the federal and state wildlife over.
JACQUELYNE BRECHTEL CLARKSON, New Orleans City Council Vice President: You remember this. State Fish and Wildlife have one of our best experts, they were performing better than most of the state probably put more into their hands when it was Mitch [Landrieu] that mobilized him.
NUNGESSER: the problem as.
J. CLARKSON: BP is controlling it.
NUNGESSER: They are not trusting them. and there’s nobody on the ground with BP saying, no, that is the wrong way. we’re going to do it this way.
P. CLARKSON: How you actually get someone to finally move BP out of the way? Is that forthcoming?
NUNGESSER: Yesterday’s with the meeting with state wildlife, we started the ball rolling. Now they realize they’re not in control.
P. CLARKSON: Can Obama make that official, that BP no longer has control of your parish?
NUNGESSER: It’s the Coast Guard that’s supposed to be in control right now, but it’s still sitting at the table. I will love to be sitting around the table working for every issue with them. I would much rather be cleaning up the oil than yelling and screaming. And I have done that for a couple of weeks in between, and just like right now, and there are a lot of Coast Guard people here and the local BP people are great. But we have got to get to a point where when something needs to be done, I can grab that person by the arm and say, let’s fix it. And it is not to that point yet.
ARNIE FIELKOW, New Orleans City Council President: It’s a command-and-control standpoint. You got four states being affected directly right now. Why is there not a single point person with Coast Guard, BP, for each of the four states so that when you as a parish president, or Orleans Parish has an issue, there’s one single person that can clear all of this, whether it’s a wildlife issue, or a boat issue, it doesn’t seem that difficult to create.
NUNGESSER: Sam is a great guy. Sam can pick up the phone. Sam does not have the authority that Thad Allen says that he does. It sends up the chain of authority. But he never gets an answer back. I feel like — I don’t blame them — a lot of the BP people on the ground do not have the experience or are relying on contractors that to me are more interested in putting bodies out there to make money than they are in cleaning up the oil.
FIELKOW: From both the BP and Coast Guard standpoint, whoever is the local, statewide contact for you not only needs to be named but they need to have authority and decision-making power so that they can make some calls. So that you do not have to go to that person and they have to wait for Coast Guard or BP. There needs to be more of a controlled decision-making process created here to get things moving faster.