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Gulf Coast Fund Mobilizing Emergency Response to the BP Oil Drilling Disaster
The Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health (GCF), a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, has worked hand-in-hand with Gulf Coast communities for the past five years.
Recognizing that this is among the worst environmental disasters to affect the US coast, GCF is already taking action to address the situation and working directly with community leaders and frontline responders. We are receiving regular updates from our partners on the ground, and have already mobilized our Community Advisory Board and provided our first emergency grants to the areas most in need.
The BP Oil Drilling Disaster unfolding in the Gulf Coast is one of the most significant threats to the environment our country has faced in decades. It is not an ‘oil spill’ as it has been referred to by the media. According to scientists at Tulane University, it is a river of oil flowing from the earth’s crust at a rate of 240,000 gallons per day, with the potential to keep flowing for up to 3 more months. It will make landfall among some of the most important fisheries and sensitive coastal ecosystems within hours. And then it will just keep coming. Put simply, it has the potential to devastate fragile coastal communities and ecosystems beyond repair.
Action must be taken immediately to protect coastal communities and ecosystems.
Working with our partners on the ground, the Gulf Coast Fund is:
Why should you support nonprofit organizations responding to the BP oil drilling disaster?We at the Gulf Coast Fund have noticed people asking why they should support nonprofit organizations responding to the BP oil drilling disaster when, as they say “Isn’t BP supposed to be paying for this mess?”
Yes. BP should and will pay. There is no way of knowing when and how (Exxon-Valdez is a case in point. Exxon/Mobil has still paid only a fraction of what they had promised.)
But one thing we do know is that what BP will eventually pay will in no way address the full costs of this disaster.
First, BP is not funding organizations. BP is addressing individual small claims with checks. BP is hiring individual fishermen to do clean-up tasks. BP is not providing doctors to help those fishermen coming back to their houses coughing up blood. BP is not giving out respirators because BP does not want to acknowledge the toxic quality of the dispersants and the oil. BP needs to minimize the financial impact for its shareholders. For whose interest does BP work? Therein lies the problem.
An independent source of income is necessary to ensure that independent voices are supported. How do we know that the clean up is being conducted in a way that is safe for residents in living in the affected areas all along the Gulf Coast? How can we be sure that the materials being used are safe? How can we be sure that BP is providing safety gear and respirators to the clean-up workers? Is BP funding the watchdogs? Is BP funding small community groups that have a vested interest in a healthy gulf? Is BP funding monitoring activities of BP’s own efforts to address the disaster? It is inherently impossible for the perpetrator to monitor itself. It is inherently impossible for government to monitor itself. That’s why we need to support NGOs and independent advocacy organizations. That’s why we need to support community-based organizations on the ground in the Gulf made up of people who have lived there for generations and even centuries, and thus know their physical environment better than anyone else, even BP, possibly could.
In order to ensure that information is accurate, best practice dictates that independently-verified and substantiated data be used. That can only be made possible with independent private dollars.
Of course BP should be held accountable to the greatest degree possible. Of course BP should pay. How can you commence class-action litigation to cover the full impacts of this disaster which have YET to unfold and will unfold for generations? And, if past history is any indication, settlement funds no matter how big will never cover the full cost.
The federal government must also be held accountable for the weakened regulations that caused the disaster and forced to strengthen oversight of the oil industry. Federal clean-up responses must also be carefully monitored by independent sources. BP will not pay for this advocacy or monitoring.
We have seen that BP is willing to invest millions on full-page ads and PR campaigns. They are even willing to attempt to buy control of information available to the public. There seems to be no limit to what they will pay to try to cover up this disaster.
What BP will not pay for is ensuring that the Gulf ecosystem is restored. BP will not pay to ensure that communities are defended and made whole again. BP will not pay for advocacy and organizing to lessen our dependence on oil. BP will not pay for work to move us toward a clean energy future, pass climate change legislations and advocate greater public and private investments in renewable energy to ensure this never happens again. None of these are in BP’s self-interest.
The money that NRDC and the Gulf Coast Fund are raising is not going to pay individual fishermen to wipe marsh grass or lay down boom. The money that NRDC raises is going to go to groups that have a long-term vested interest in the affected communities and that will be working on the human (economic, cultural, psychological, emotional) AND environmental consequences of this disaster for LONG after BP leaves the Gulf.
The money that we are raising now will ensure that groups in Gulf Coast communities have the financial and moral support to not despair and continue to monitor, advocate, protect, speak up and not give up hope.