Defend Plaquemines

Diane Sawyer’s person of the week wants to show the world just how hospitable Plaquemines Parish can be.

At a town hall meeting this week Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who is to be anointed by Sawyer during a Friday night appearance on the ABC newscaster’s show, implored residents in attendance to be “hospitable.”

“The eyes of the world are on us,” he said, referring to all those who have suddenly noticed that his threatened sliver of coastal Louisiana is feeling the first effects of oil on land.

Meanwhile, his own tone only grows more desperate with each passing moment.

The embattled former oil industry entrepreneur greeted residents and reporters entering Wednesday’s meeting. His sunburned face wore the exasperation of days outside watching oil seep into the marshland that defines his parish.

The head of the coast guard, Admiral Thad Allen, is a “cartoon character,” he told one gaggle of foreign journalists.

“I don’t blame the president, I blame BP and the Coast Guard,” Nungesser announced to the rest of the audience. The auditorium in which he spoke had been erected by FEMA after the region’s last catastrophe, Hurricane Katrina.

Admiral Allen “cannot come to work here,” he postured.

But while Nungesser’s anger is directed at the people who are charged with stopping the oil spill, one Coast Guard captain seemed to be focusing his ire on the people affected by it.

Addressing the attentive crowd, Coast Guard Captain Ed Stanton presented other oil spill scenarios from which the region had recovered. He mentioned a 1970 Chevron spill that spewed 2 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico. “We cleaned up and we recovered,” Stanton said.  He made no mention of the obvious differences to this ongoing leak in the Gulf, which by some conservative estimates has already spilled more than 18 million gallons.

One listener, Matt Levetich, an oysterman with beds stretching from Mississippi to Grand Isle, voiced concerns about what he characterized as the “piecemeal” response to an “epic large” event.

To that, Stanton shot back, “epic large, where did you hear that?”

The most heated exchange of the evening came when audience member Lance Gremillion brought up World War II battle of Dunkirk, when allied forces reacted deftly to a threat before being eventually defeated. The event has alternately gone down in history as a dynamic fight and humiliation.

“I would have expected a Dunkirk-like response,” Gremillion said, wrapping up comments about inadequate boom placement.  The mention of the battle elicited a fiery response from Stanton.   “ Dunkirk, “ he said,  “you mean the battle famous for its retreat?”

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About Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led to guilty pleas in federal court. Her work attracted some of journalism's highest honors, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.

  • Hodieb Khalifa – Egypt

    To any American official who cares about America

    C.C. The inept BP engineers


    A sure way to cap this wild well is by using a “Thermite Iron Bomb” consisting of a thermite charge filling the inside of a suitably shaped cast iron body, weighing 10-20 tons, big enough to engulf the top of the blowout preventer.

    The Thermite Iron Bomb will be lowered into the water by a chain exactly onto the blowout preventer and the thermite charge inside the iron body will be detonated.

    The thermite inside the iron body will burn fast at very high temperature causing the iron body to melt and flow down to cover the top of the blowout preventer, instantly plugging and killing the Wild Beast.

    I’m Egyptian Engineer living in Egypt, but I really care for the environment and for the US of which I’m not a citizen – US officials and citizens are supposed to care for the US more than me! Or am I mistaken?!

    Eng. Hodieb Khalifa
    Cairo – Egypt

    002-0163427827 (Egypt)

    (More details and drawings are available upon request)

  • Maria Lopez

    BP doesn’t want to listen to any suggestions. It’s crazy.