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Robert Trigaux

Will BP oil ruin Florida coastline because of inadequate resources to clean up the mess?

Wake up and good morning.
Should Florida take command of its own coastline clean-up? Some officials up in the Panhandle who sense there's too-little-too-late going on from BP's side think so, and have asked federal officials to make it so. (Photo: ?Protesters ?march ?Sunday along Pensacola Beach, where oil globs from the Deepwater Horizon spill have washed ashore. Getty Images.)

“There were clean up crews on the beach but I’m not totally satisfied with the degree of cleanup that we have going on,” Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson told WKRG TV in the Mobile-Pensacola market. Here's that story.

Is this a trend we'll see in other parts of coastal Florida as the oil damage spreads? Alabama already is complaining that it's getting short shrift in the clean-up as other states get more manpower. Read more here.

Gene Valentino,  a commissioner for Escambia County, which includes Pensacola Beach, said the crews cleaning up local beaches, including BP workers, county employees and volunteers, will increase to about 1,000 people today from about 550 yesterday. That not a lot of people, frankly, for a Florida coastline of at least several hundred miles that is now in harm's way. Escambia would rather take over the beach clean-up and send BP the bill.

Lucia Bustamante, BP’s spokeswoman in Florida, said the London-based company is committed to helping the state, Bloomberg News reported. "We are ready, we are prepared,” she said. BP is training people “as fast as we can” and working to ensure that all of the clean-up workers are local residents.

That's not cutting it on the Panhandle. Santa Rosa Island, Florida, Authority leader Buck Lee reported that “there are no booms in the Gulf” to protect beaches endangered by invading oil. “They only have booms up on Pensacola Beach,” he told last week. " So far, all I know is they’re planning to send 10 little workers over here with little shovels and bags (to clean up the spill). That’s not going to make it.”

RobertreichWhile so many officials fiddle, maybe former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich (right), commenting on the country's vast numbers of unemployed younger people, has the best idea:

What to do with this army of young unemployed? Send them to the Gulf to clean up beaches and wetlands, and send the bill to BP.

Reich argues the clean-up has only begin and will get far worse. Most of the oil hasn’t hit land yet. When it does, hundreds of thousands of workers will be needed to clean beaches, siphon off oil from wetlands, and rescue stranded wildlife, he says. Tens of thousands more will have to bring in new landfill, replace tarred sea walls, and rebuild shoreline infrastructure. Says Reich:

"Yet we’ve got hundreds of thousands of young people sitting on their hands right now because they can’t find jobs. Many are from affected coastal areas, where the tourist and fishing industries have been decimated by the spill."

President Obama, Reich wrote here, should order BP to establish a $5 billion clean-up fund, and immediately put America’s army of unemployed young people to work saving the Gulf coast. Call it the new Civilian Conservation Corps, he says.

Heck, call it whatever you want. At least somebody's talking about getting a lot more manpower on those beaches. I'm not hearing that from BP or the feds.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 10:59am]


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