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La. Gov. Jindal Blasts Washington's Response To Spill
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La. Gov. Jindal Blasts Washington's Response To Spill

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La. Gov. Jindal Blasts Washington's Response To Spill

La. Gov. Jindal Blasts Washington's Response To Spill
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Residents of the Gulf Coast are watching oil wash ashore and hurt wildlife. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says BP and the federal government now are allowing locals to take measures that could prevent some damage. He criticized BP and the federal government for not acting fast enough to prevent oil from reaching his state's shores.

DAVID GREENE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And Im Renee Montagne.

Along the Gulf Coast this morning, oil is washing ashore and there is still no good idea of when the leaking well will be capped.

We have two reports and we start in Louisiana. Governor Bobby Jindal now says 65 miles of his state's coastline have been touched by oil. Delicate wetlands and marshes, and the pelicans and other birds that live in them, are being coated with oil. The governor is blasting the federal government and oil giant BP for what he says is their slow response to a growing disaster.

NPR's David Schaper reports from Venice, Louisiana.

DAVID SCHAPER: Under the hot Louisiana sun, a sweating and steaming Governor Bobby Jindal rattled off the list of places along his state's precious coastline that are now fouled by oil.

Governor BOBBY JINDAL (Republican, Louisiana): Theyve confirmed shoreline impacts to date on: Chandeluer Island, Whiskey Island, Trinity Island, Raccoon Island, South Pass, Fourchon Beach, Grand Isle, Elmer's Island...

SCHAPER: The fast-talking Jindal blasted BP, whose well, 5,000 feet below the Gulf surface, continues to spew thousands of barrels of oil into the water each day, and the federal government for both not acting fast enough to prevent oil from reaching his state's shores.

Gov. JINDAL: It is clear the resources needed to protect our coast are still not here. Boom, skimmers, vacuums, jack-up barges are all in short supply. Oil sits and waits for clean-up, more of our marsh dies.

SCHAPER: One thing frustrating to Jindal is that he says there are thousands of feet of boom ready to be deployed, and idled commercial fishermen waiting to take them out, while they wait for the Coast Guard and BP to approve the areas that local officials want to protect.

Among the places suffering some of the worst oil damage thus far are the barrier islands and marshy wetlands of Plaquemines Parish.

Mr. BILLY NUNGESSER (President, Plaquemines Parish): As you can see, our worst nightmare has come true.

SCHAPER: Holding up pictures of brown pelicans coated in thick, gooey oil, Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser says this nesting season is a tragic one for Louisiana's state bird - a once-endangered species that was just de-listed last fall, after it had recovered.

Nungesser describes approaching brown pelicans on one island with wildlife agents and seeing them scurry deep into the marsh because they were too coated with oil to defend themselves or fly away.

Mr. NUNGESSER: And if the wildlife agents are successful in pulling some of them out that are drenched with oil, and if they do survive, their babies will never hatch. There's no way to go back and identify them. And you can't walk on that island without stepping on a nest of eggs.

SCHAPER: Nungesser describes other wildlife harmed, including a dead dolphin or porpoise covered with oil. And...

Mr. NUNGESSER: The turtles - the other night we brought in, in Empire, gasping for air, pulling the oil out of their nostrils and their eyes. This is an absolute tragedy that two, three weeks ago we could have started doing something about it.

SCHAPER: That something is a series of berms that would be made with sand dredged from the bottom of the Gulf and piled in front of barrier islands that could stop the oil before it seeps into the more delicate shoreline and island habitat.

Governor Jindal envisions a chain of sand berms built east and west of the Mississippi River Mouth, ultimately protecting 80 miles of Louisiana coastline, not just from oil, but from hurricanes, too.

The Army Corps of Engineers hasnt said yes, but hasnt said no either, to the emergency request from Louisiana. Jindal says the state made revisions based on Corps concerns. But federal officials say they still need to study the long-term impacts of such a huge coastline-altering project.

But Jindal says the state can't wait much longer.

Gov. JINDAL: Here in Louisiana, we're committed to defending our way of life. Our people have grown up along this coast, theyve made a living off this coast, they have fished along this coast for decades; they want their children and grandchildren to be able to do the same.

SCHAPER: Today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who is also expressing increasing frustration with BP, will visit Louisiana. He'll be joined by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and a bipartisan congressional delegation.

David Schaper, NPR News, Venice, Louisiana.

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