Last Thurs, I was on a teleconference between the Department of the Interior, Coastguard, NOAA, EPA, BP and Transocean.  I put in for a question and I was selected first.

I felt BP should explain their reasoning behind that as OUR residents should be benefiting from those new jobs, not somebody else’s bank account out of state.  I asked Mary Cocklan- Vendl- (BP shoreline and response and BP Richard Sanener- BP shoreline technical advisor from the UK the logic behind this decision; specifically Santa Rosa County,  for the jobs that were being created were being outsourced to 3rd parties and NOT being given to our residents like initially promised. Much like the clean up after Hurricane Katrina.

A silence filled the room and then Mary replied, “We are employing SCAT (Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Techniques) employees to clean up the beach line. I then asked, when is the training going to be offered for the residents who are wanting to help with the clean up recovery. She said, “It is not. The SCAT group will ensure consistency, plans and managing boards for consistent data management.”   In response, I asked about the 4 hr hazmat training classes that were offered and why would residents be directed to that class, if that class was not even applicable to the oil cleaning and wildlife process.

Again, another silence filled the room. She then said, “I am not qualified to answer that question- the best way to find out information is to go to our ENVIRONMENTAL hotline at 1-866-448-5816.

I objected,  “That is the call center for your hotline and they only record information- They cannot offer clarification. They will not be able to help me which is why I posed *you* the question. Then a male voice spoke up and said, “or you can call 866-366-5511.

Then my call was disconnected. 0.0

I called the # ending in 5511 and it rang until a voice mail picked up saying I reached “American Office Products”. I left a msg and then another msg yesterday asking for a returned call. I still have yet to receive one.

In the meantime, I contacted the general call line again and raised holy cane saying that the BP official gave me this number and I want to talk to somebody who knows something. It took 28 min (literally) of convincing that I was who I said I was and that my intentions were pure. (I told them I wanted to help BP look better in the eyes of the media).  Then I was connected to a supervisor.

Karen (who was “not allowed” to give me her last name) answered and I asked her why are our local jobs, that were promised to us by BP, being given to a 3rd party? Also, what is going to happen to all of the volunteers in NW Fla who took the 4 hr hazmat training to help the oiled wildlife and that Santa Rosa County is in the works of offering hazmat training to assist.  Why would this training be given, if it is not applicable to the oil spill? Further, will people be allowed on the beaches with their hazmat certificate?

After much hemming & hawing, she replied that only SCAT officials will be allowed for clean up and wildlife assistance. That HAZMAT training was not specific enough. That they are drawing from the hazmat training class and supposedly tapping for higher interest within that knowledge pool.   (Side note:: I dont think this is happening. I think BP is trying to cover up the damage of the oil spill so they are contracting people to come out and report what “needs” to be reported.)

Obviously, I was not thrilled with that answer. So I kept pushing until she broke and she gave me the direct number for BP and told me to call to get through to the reception area and then asked for the aforementioned people by name. I left a msg and another follow up msg for both parties and will continue calling around that facility on Monday until I get another directory path.

Also, another problem surrounding that is the toll free number given by BP for an “oiled animal rescueline” that I am trying to get answers too is WHY are checking messages on an hourly basis? Time is of the essence when a bird is covered in oil and developing hypothermia because the body cannot retain the heat.  This appears rather heartless to me and I feel that messages needed to be checked more frequently.

The State of Florida is now taking control of the recovery wheel and pushing for more cleanup money. As the initial amount of $25 Million will not even be CLOSE to the amount of money that our counties will need to effectively rid the oil from our shorelines. Congressman Jeff Miller has put in a request for $1 Billion dollars to assist our State and is awaiting approval.  If our State is only given $25 million, we will risk a County bankruptcy for the recovery process will cost much more than that.  Escambia county just spent $1.2 billion dollars to buy booms to cover their shorelines, so this is a reasonable. How ironic since Unified Command stated that they would honor all “reasonable requests” yet denied our request for booms.

However, the question still remains, “How can we best assess Florida’s future damage that is caused to our small coastline businesses, the fishing and the tourism industry?” Hopefully by relying on the past year trends of condos, hotel, local tourist attraction revenue and calculating inflation into the equation, Florida can determine the answer on how to best help the struggling bystanders of this man made, careless oil spill in our beautiful Gulf of Mexico.

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