National Catholic Reporter

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Statement of Sierra Club director Michael Brune on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill

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Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune visited the Gulf Coast on May 5, when he flew over the site of the BP oil disaster and spoke with local residents about the growing catastrophe.

"Before I came down to the Gulf, I knew the impacts of the disaster would be bad. I had no idea it would be this bad.

We saw marinas filled with oyster boats tied to the docks when they should be out working. We saw hundreds of crab nets sitting idle. We saw habitat for stingrays, dolphins, mackerel, sharks, and prime shrimp spawning areas. All of this is at risk. Some of the most productive fishing areas on the planet and one of the most beautiful places in the world are now under siege from spreading oil.

The spill extends for miles and miles. As far as 76 miles from the site of the explosion, you could clearly see the oil pollution. There were visible ribbons of orange muck coursing through the water. The oil is already washing up on the outer islands.

You can't see this mess and not be angered by the impact BP has had on this entire region.

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Now BP is running an expensive public relations campaign in an attempt to mask the full extent of the damage in the Gulf and minimize their accountability. After talking to residents here in the Gulf and seeing the pollution, it's clear to me that the depth of damage here can't be minimized. BP needs to be accountable for every penny of the response effort and every job lost.

This disaster is a wakeup call. We need to stop the expansion of offshore drilling, immediately. We need to eliminate subsidies and giveaways to companies like BP, which made more than $5.5 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2010 alone. We need our leaders to deliver a plan to get us off oil by promoting clean energy solutions. Solutions like efficiency and clean cars already exist, we just need the political will to implement them.

It's clear that the residents of the Gulf Coast are going to be dealing with this disaster for years to come. This is an unspeakable tragedy, not just for the families of the 11 workers lost in the explosion, but for all the residents of the Gulf Coast who rely on the ocean for their livelihoods.

President Obama needs to direct every resource available to responding to this environmental and economic catastrophe."

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