Gov. Jindal to Feds: No Time for More Studies, Act Now & Restart Dredging Operations so LA Can Win this War against the Oil Spill

June 23, 2010

Governor Bobby Jindal, Nola Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser speak on behalf of Louisiana Seafood.

NEW ORLEANS (June 23, 2010) – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal called on the federal government to immediately restart dredging operations at the Chandeleur Islands after the federal government ordered the operations there to shut down last night. The Governor landed on the sand-berms today at the Chandeleur Islands today to highlight the progress already made in the state’s dredging project to block the oil from hitting Louisiana’s coast. Governor Jindal called the federal government’s decision to shut down dredging absurd and requested they immediately allow contractors to get back to work building sand-berms to protect the state’s coastline.

Governor Jindal said, “We got word yesterday that federal officials were going to shut down our dredging operations on the North Chandeleur Islands and those operations were indeed stopped under the federal government’s command at 6PM last night.

“Our request here today is simple. We are again calling on the federal government to allow us to continue these dredging operations as we mobilize pipe for another two miles – which will take around just seven more days. Getting this pipe in place without stopping the dredging operations will allow us a seamless transition as we move the dredge to a new borrow site. After this pipe is in place, our dredger can disconnect and move to the next site where it can then resume dredging operations in just one day.

“We have told Col. Lee of the Army Corps of Engineers and every federal agency that we are in an emergency situation here. This is a disaster for our state. Days count. Hours count. We cannot wait for more conference calls and meetings for discussions. We need to adapt to the situation on the ground and continue our dredging operations for as long as possible until we can move to the next borrow site and continue to create sand boom.

To date, more than 690,000 cubic yards of material have been transported for the eastern and western reaches of the sand berm project on the North Chandeleur Islands. This includes approximately 90,000 cubic yards on the western side. A total of 5,000 feet of sand berm has been created at the site. The state has also dredged over 2.5 miles on East Grand Terre.

The Governor added, “We have jumped through every hoop that the federal government has placed in front of us since this spill started. On May 2, we submitted our initial boom plan to the Incident Command Post since there was not a plan. When BP and the Coast Guard were unable to provide the appropriate boom resources, we began developing innovative solutions like Tiger Dams, air-dropping sand bags, Hesco baskets, opening all freshwater diversions, vacuum barges and many other alternatives.

“On May 11th, we submitted a proposal to the regulatory agencies, BP and the Coast Guard to approve our sand berms. It took almost a month for the federal government to approve the plan and make BP pay for the work. Meanwhile, we had millions of gallons of oil covering our wetlands, killing our wildlife and forcing our people out of work.”

At a press conference following the tour of the dredging site, the Governor highlighted a picture of the Chandeleur Islands from 2001 to 2005 that shows the erosion of the area. Governor Jindal noted that The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service own these islands and they are supposed to be a wildlife refuge.

Governor Jindal said, “People used to live on these islands. It was a fishing community and even had some farming. From the mid-90s until recently, the islands lost up to 300 feet per year under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service management. Now, this same agency has concerns that we are not being sensitive to the islands by wanting to continue to dredge for seven more days to ensure a smooth transition? They have not invested a penny in this area and are allowing it to erode at extraordinary rates. Meanwhile, they invest millions in other refuges in other parts of the country.

“Louisiana’s coast is one our most important resources. That is why we are fighting so hard to protect our wetlands, protect our fisheries and birds and to protect our way of life from this oil spill – with these sand booms.

“We have said from the beginning that we would backfill any dredging that would adversely affect these islands. That commitment still stands. Shutting down dredging operations while oil continues to hit our shores and the oil continues to flow into the Gulf is absolutely absurd. We need to act now.

“The area where the state was dredging remains within the area permitted by the federal government. When the dredging contractor began operations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service voiced objections to the location of the dredge. In an effort to prevent delay to the project, we worked out an agreement that would provide for backfilling the dredge site and the movement of the dredge vessel to a new location. The state remains committed to moving the dredge to another location within the permitted area and backfilling the first dredge site.”

DRILLING MORATORIUM
The Governor reiterated his support for the court’s ruling yesterday to lift the moratorium and also noted that for the first time BP said today they will not be paying for any moratorium-related losses.

Governor Jindal said, “The federal judge’s ruling yesterday to grant an immediate injunction on President Obama’s deepwater drilling moratorium was welcome news. We absolutely agree with the judge’s conclusion that the Administration’s six-month, or longer, shut down of deepwater drilling was ‘arbitrary and capricious.’

“Not only does the moratorium threaten thousands of direct jobs in our state, it also jeopardizes many other industries that supply our oil and gas industry and the entire communities that depend on them. It is also deeply concerning that the President’s moratorium was enacted against the judgment of the Department of the Interior’s own expert advisors and scientists.

“The Administration now says that they will immediately appeal the ruling. They just don’t seem to understand that you can’t just turn a switch on and off with these rigs. When they leave our coast to produce oil in other parts of the country or the world, the jobs that support them go too. We absolutely do not want another spill or one more drop of oil on our coast or in our water, but thousands of Louisianians should not have to lose their jobs because the federal government can’t adequately do their job of ensuring drilling is done safely.

“The federal government has an entire agency dedicated to monitoring safe drilling. It shouldn’t take them six-months or longer to ensure safety measures are in place and their laws and regulations are being followed. Instead of an arbitrary moratorium, the Administration should listen to their own experts and enact the specific recommended steps from their own experts to ensure proper oversight and safe drilling.

“As Judge Feldman stated in his preliminary injunction ruling yesterday, ‘…the Secretary’s determination that a six-month moratorium on issuance of new permits and on drilling by the thirty-three rigs is necessary does not seem to be fact-specific and refuses to take into measure the safety records of those others in the Gulf. There is no evidence presented indicating that the Secretary balanced the concern for environmental safety with the policy of making leases available for development. There is no suggestion that the Secretary considered any alternatives: for example, an individualized suspension of activities on target rigs until they reached compliance with the new federal regulations said to be recommended for immediate implementation.’”

The Governor added, “The Commission that was supposed to study the moratorium for the President for six months now says they won’t have their first meeting until mid-July and they won’t finish their report until next year.

“I want to be very clear on this point. Each month that the work of the Commission is delayed means another month that thousands of Louisiana people won’t be able to work. Each month that the work of the Commission is delayed, we expect additional energy companies to move existing deepwater rigs to other parts of the world and/or to plan new deepwater drilling capacity for other parts of the world in lieu of the Gulf – further extending and expanding job losses in Louisiana. Each month that the work of the Commission is delayed will result in the loss of approximately $65 to 135 million in Louisiana wages.

“Moreover, the $100 million set aside by BP to offset the wage losses of deepwater rig workers will cover only a few weeks of lost wages for those workers – and these funds will do nothing to offset the hundreds of millions in wage losses for workers in support industries that count on deepwater drilling activity for their livelihood. Today, BP told us for the first time that they will not pay for moratorium-related losses above the $100 million.”

SBA Request
Governor Jindal announced that the Louisiana Secretary of Economic Development sent a letter to the Small Business Administration (SBA) requesting they implement a policy change to allow repayment of business loans in the form of BP claims, if needed, in lieu of SBA’s normal process for assessing credit history and repayment ability.

Governor Jindal said, “Louisiana has suffered severe economic and ecological damage from the BP oil spill. Our seafood industry is experiencing huge economic losses that have only been partially mitigated by a frustratingly slow and inadequate BP claims process. We have also begun to face the loss of thousands of jobs associated with the federally imposed deepwater drilling moratorium. The moratorium will not only impact large oil and gas companies but it also will result in the closure of many small businesses that depend on the deepwater drilling industry. Likewise hundreds of small businesses are under severe strain due to other effects of the oil spill.

“Hundreds of claims have been filed by small businesses that do not have the financial capacity to weather an extended wait for reimbursement of their impact claims by BP. These vulnerable small businesses, many of which already were struggling to survive due to damages they incurred from recent hurricanes, are exactly the kinds of businesses that could most benefit from the SBA’s disaster recovery loan programs.

“Unfortunately, we recently learned that more than 70 percent of the initial Louisiana applicants for SBA’s loan programs were denied. According to SBA, most of these applications were denied due to credit concerns and/or SBA’s assessment of the repayment ability of these companies. Yet in many cases these small businesses have legitimate claims with BP that could be utilized to fulfill their loan obligations once their claims have been adjudicated and paid.

“Our Secretary of Economic Development wrote to the SBA today to request that they implement a policy change that would allow repayment of business loans in the form of BP claims, if needed, in lieu of SBA’s normal process for assessing credit history and repayment ability. This mechanism is essential to help small businesses with more complex claims issues that will take longer fully resolve.”

UPDATE ON PROACTIVE STATE INITIATIVES

•Louisiana National Guardsmen continue construction operations to install approximately 8.5 miles of Hesco barrier on the shoreline of Cameron Parish. Crews have stretched over 6 miles of wall to provide an initial protection to the coast. Approximately 1.6 miles is completely filled with 4.4 miles half-filled.
•There are currently 34 vacuum barge systems operating or in the stages of deploying to operate to collect oil.
•At Pelican and Scofield Islands – 8 gaps on Pelican Island are complete and a total of 3,300 sandbags have been dropped. The National Guard continues helicopter operations on Scofield Island to complete three out of the six gaps there. To date, over 9,000 sandbags have been dropped on Scofield Island. In total, the National Guard has dropped 24 million pounds of sand.
•In support of Jefferson Parish and Grand Isle, the Louisiana National Guard has completed over 8.1 miles of the Tiger Dam barrier on the island. Work continues to progress and the project is now 99 percent completed.
•In Jefferson Parish, eight sets of barges under Mayor Camardelle’s rock and barge plan are currently on site. They are doubling work crews and working to speed up the process of positioning barges there. The Mayor expects to have up to 18 sets – 54 total barges – by this weekend if weather allows for pile driving to continue on schedule. They are hopeful that a rock permit will be issued by early this weekend. The Coast Guard has approved a pilot project to use with rigid pipe boom in Pass Abel adjacent to the barges on the East Grand Terre side. This will serve as a pilot project for the rigid pipe boom alternative due to a lack of hard boom resources.

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