3 Years After the BP Oil Spill – Is the Gulf Recovering?

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The Gulf Restoration Network and Environmental Activist Riki Ott, featured in the documentary film DIRTY ENERGY: THE DEEPWATER HORIZON DISASTER, mark the date by launching campaigns to ensure that RESTORE funds are directed towards restoring long-term health of the Gulf and to ban the use of toxic dispersants.

Three years later, the Gulf’s ecosystems and residents are still suffering.

After viewing the April 20, 2010 disaster on his TV in Detroit, filmmaker Bryan D. Hopkins took his camera, $250 in cash, and drove to Louisiana to capture the stories of the people most affected by the disaster. Their experiences are featured in the documentary film DIRTY ENERGY: THE DEEPWATER HORIZON DIASTER, distributed by Cinema Libre Studio.

“DIRTY ENERGY grew out of the anger and helplessness I felt from watching oil continuously pour into the Gulf,” said Hopkins. The film takes an intimate look at the disaster from the perspective of the gulf fishermen, their families and the scientists left behind to deal with the environmental mess created by BP and the exorbitant use of the chemical dispersant Corexit. The film features in-depth interviews by those directly impacted by the effects of the oil and spill response including George Barisich (third generation fisherman, President of the United Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance); Dean Blanchard (owner of the largest shrimp business in the area of Grand Isle, Louisiana); Riki Ott (environmental activist, Exxon-Valdez survivor) and Aaron Viles [Deputy Director of the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN)].

“Three years later, the Gulf’s ecosystems and residents are still suffering, but the billions of dollars in BP fines, intended to come to the region through the RESTORE Act, present an opportunity to build a stronger and more resilient Gulf for future generations,” says GRN’s Aaron Viles. “The Gulf Restoration Network is working collaboratively to seize that opportunity. BP must be held fully accountable for the maximum fines allowed under the law, and, once these billions of dollars start flowing to the Gulf, the vast majority of these funds should go towards restoring the long-term health of the Gulf’s natural resources.“

GRN recently released the “Gulf Future Guidance for Sustainable Restoration,” to direct the significant RESTORE Act dollars to projects that restore the ecosystem and the coastal communities and economy that depend on the Gulf. Supported by 50 groups representing a diverse coalition of conservation, community, and faith-based organizations from throughout the Gulf, the document lays out shared priorities and guidance for the members of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and the Gulf states.

The “Gulf Future Guidance” focuses on four major areas: restoring the Gulf ecosystem, the economic benefits of ecosystem restoration for local communities; public participation and transparency; and creating safe, healthy and just communities. Details can be found at: http://gulffuture.org

Riki Ott, a veteran of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill and a marine toxicologist says, “With the third memorial of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster looming, North America experienced four major oil disasters in only one week. As government officials and industry leaders press for waivers, approval, and construction of tar sands pipelines at an alarming rate across the United States, more and more residents are feeling the impact of careless industry practices and toxic petrochemicals.”

Gulf Coast residents documented BP's use of highly toxic Corexit dispersants in shallow seas and near shore, contrary to BP's website, but consistent with federal-state pre-approval plans for dispersant use. BP's medical benefits settlement includes a long list of illnesses consistent with exposure to oil and toxic dispersants. In November 2012, Ott returned to Louisiana with Hopkins to investigate the health of the Gulf shrimp population. Their disturbing findings can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/album/2152551/video/57467476

Ott is currently leading a "People's Coalition to Ban Dispersants," to oppose the federal government's decision to use toxic chemical dispersants in oil spill response, while accepting a human health risk tradeoff. The petition demands, instead, real cleanup with mechanical containment and removal of oil and use of nontoxic products.

Through her work, Ott encourages ordinary people to become the driving force to make human rights a priority over corporate profits. Her work includes developing educational curricula for schools (grades 5-12 and universities) and communities across the nation to deepen our collective understanding of our nation’s history and create the cultural consciousness required for a significant shift in the political landscape. To read more about the petition to ban toxic dispersants, visit http://www.UltimateCivics.org Energy & Democracy program.

DIRTY ENERGY can be viewed here: http://www.hulu.com/#!watch/447852

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ABOUT CINEMA LIBRE STUDIO: Cinema Libre Studio is a leader in distributing social-issue documentaries and features by passionate filmmakers. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the Cinema Libre team has released over one hundred films including the Sundance Audience Award‐Winning FUEL, THE END OF POVERTY?, and Oliver Stone’s SOUTH OF THE BORDER. The studio is developing John Perkins’ best‐selling memoirs, CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN, into a major motion picture.

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Beth Portello
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