"include a citizens’ advisory council to provide formal advice and a direct line to citizens’ concerns"
President Obama created a National Commission to extensively investigate the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill disaster to make recommendations. On page 212 of the report - “Finally, no authority will succeed without the confidence and support of the citizens of the region. Leaders of restoration efforts emphasize the importance of gaining the support of those most directly affected by restoration projects. Local citizen support is important for several reasons: it can reduce delay of projects due to litigation or other opposition; it contributes to political support for overall goals and funding, in the short and long terms; and it contributes to overall trust in government, which results in support for local projects. Any structure should therefore include a citizens’ advisory council to provide formal advice and a direct line to citizens’ concerns.”
As a result, the GuLF STUDY was launched to monitor the health of a control group of participants who worked on the spill. The findings from the study may influence long-term public health responses in Gulf communities or responses to other oil spills in the future. One factor they are relying on is the analysis of death certificates to determine suicides and deaths related to the exposure. The accuracy of the death certificates causes Disappearing Victims concern. Based on the State of Louisiana’s own report, how can this method be credible as it will likely and incorrectly reflect that many deaths had nothing to do with the oil spill? Also there are so many cascading affects due to chemical exposure, which illness was chosen that killed the victim? We were also concerned with the method of interviewing clean-up workers which is through telephone survey and medical visits. Many victims reported to us their distrust of the GuLF Study because they believed that BP was behind it. One victim reported she would not let them in because she figured they would say mold or some other thing in the household caused the multiple myeloma that her husband got years after he rescued workers from the Gulf immediately after the spill. Albeit a Community Advisory Group was formed, it was merely to provide advice on recruitment, study implementation, retention, and outreach efforts. No citizens’ advisory council to provide formal advice and a direct line to citizens’ concerns was ever formed.
In another Presidential Commission, the Mabus Report was produced by then Secretary of the Navy and former governor of Mississippi proposing “a comprehensive plan for a single, Gulfwide decision making authority for long-term restoration and should include a citizen’s advisory council to provide formal advice and a direct line to citizens’ concerns.”
The RESTORE Council
The RESTORE ACT was signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 6, 2012, as a result of the Mabus report. It produced the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, to restore the long-term health of the valuable natural ecosystem and economy of the Gulf Coast region. It consists of governors, the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, the Army, Commerce, Homeland Security, and the Interior, and the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. No citizens’ advisory council to provide formal advice and a direct line to citizens’ concerns was ever formed.
As predicted by 2 Presidential Commissions, we, the citizens of our region, are not confident in the authorities vested with the responsibilities to monitor and report on our health, and restore the Gulf Coast Region in a balanced manner, because we have been overlooked. Therefore, Disappearing Victims will assert its right as citizens to organize and monitor the performances of both groups. We will communicate the findings to the citizens and collect their feedback in order to provide the formal advice from the citizens that both groups need in order to be successful, as per the Presidential Commissions' recommendations.