Today, Governor Bobby Jindal met with Vice President Joe Biden and he called for a greater sense of urgency from the federal government in the war to protect Louisiana's coastline from the oil spill. The Governor talked to the Vice President about the need to cut through red tape to ensure the quick approval of resources and projects to fight the spill miles off the coast before the oil enters the state's fragile wetlands.
Governor Jindal said, "We're glad the Vice President visited Louisiana today. Just as when the President comes into town, we see the pace of federal activity increase. The overarching message that I told the Vice President today is that the federal government needs to increase their sense of urgency. They need to treat this spill like a war and get in it to win it. We're here to defend our way of life.
"We're asking the federal government to cut through the red tape and bureaucracy. It's time for them to lead or get out of the way. The federal government should stop interfering in our work to stop the oil. Over and over again, the federal government has stopped and stalled our efforts to fight this oil off the coast.
"First, it was the sand-berms where it took the federal government weeks to approve the project and then after construction started, the federal government shut it down and left our coast vulnerable to the oil. The latest example is the rocks and barges plan off of Grand Isle. Jefferson Parish and Plaquemines Parish together with the towns of Grand Isle and Lafitte have been pushing for weeks to get approval for their plans to place boom, rocks, and barges in five of the western Barataria Bay passes. Their plan calls for narrowing the passes by up to 70 percent with rocks, rigid pipe boom or other measures, then placing barges with vacuum trucks and sorbent operations in the remaining gaps. We can fight this oil before it gets into our interior marshes with these plans -- but they are still awaiting federal approval.
"Local officials have been waiting for over a month for approval and the Grand Isle Mayor and I spoke to the President about this project three weeks ago. The President told us we would get a call within hours, but to date, we still don't have approval to place the rocks. We need action on this today. I brought this up to the Vice President and asked him to cut through the red tape. It is ridiculous that we are still fighting this bureaucracy three weeks after the President was here saying he would help us get this done.
"We also spoke to the Vice President about the need to quickly deploy all resources available, including skimmers and boom. We've been told that there's over 170 skimmers coming and that's great, but where have they been for the past 70 days? This is something we've been talking about for weeks and the federal government needs to deploy every resource. I also spoke to the Vice President about relaxing regulatory rules so we can get more skimmers from around the country and even the world. Yesterday, we were off the coast off Grand Isle where we saw a 12-mile oil slick and not one skimmer was out there collecting the oil. That's absurd.
"Finally, I talked to the Vice President about the drilling moratorium and the impact it's having on our people. We want drilling to be done safely, but we're very concerned about an arbitrary 6-month timeline and the fact that the commission studying the moratorium won't even hold their first meeting until next month.
"As far as claims for the people impacted by the moratorium, the situation is still as clear as mud. We asked the Vice President today about claims for our workers and he spoke about the $100 million that has been set aside for oil rig workers. The President has told people to file claims with BP and BP has said they are not handling claims. We also have concerns that the $100 million in funds will not last for an entire six-month suspension.
Also, the funds will not cover everyone impacted by the moratorium because it's not just oil rig workers, there are thousands of men and women that will be out of work who support this industry. Most importantly though, no one here wants a claims check or an unemployment check. They want to go back to work."
MEETING WITH SECRETARY MABUS
Governor Jindal discussed his meeting yesterday with Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, who has been charged by President Obama with developing a long-term recovery plan for the Gulf Coast. The Governor noted the specific request he made to Secretary Mabus, an immediate commitment of federal funding to match the state's commitment to coastal restoration and hurricane protection.
Governor Jindal said, "We had a good meeting with Secretary Mabus yesterday. I made it clear that Louisiana does not need any more plans or studies -- we have enough of those. What we need is immediate action on the estimated $9 billion in projects that have been authorized by Congress for construction. Those projects are delayed well beyond the deadlines required in federal law.
"Specifically, I told Secretary Mabus that we need an immediate commitment of federal funding to match our state's commitment to coastal restoration and hurricane protection in Louisiana.
"We simply do not have the 40 years that it would take to complete these projects through the Corps of Engineers -- according to their usual timeframes. Even in this emergency situation, it took us nearly a month to get approval and funding for our sand berms as oil continued to hit our shore day after day -- that is ridiculous. We need this new structure to be ready in no less than 60 days.
"Additionally -- the President's moratorium on deepwater energy production does not just affect our jobs in Louisiana. It also affects or delays energy revenue sharing that is due to the state under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act. Senator Landrieu and our Congressional delegation have been working on legislation to expedite the sharing energy revenues rather than delaying it. I strongly support those efforts. Indeed, our Constitution requires that every penny of these revenues be dedicated to projects to restore our coast, provide hurricane protection and address other impacts from energy production."