Louisiana official fuming mad over heavy oil still fouling marshes

Brett Michael Dykes
January 10, 2011

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser -- who became an almost ubiquitous face of outrage at the height of the BP oil disaster -- is hopping mad once again, and he says that he's held his anger close to his considerable vest for far too long.

"I've been quiet long enough," Nungesser told the Times Picayune's Paul Rioux over the weekend. "I've given them the benefit of the doubt, but they're not getting anything done."

The "them" in question are, not surprisingly, officials at BP, along with government officials like Coast Guard Commander Dan Lauer who've been charged with overseeing the cleanup and restoration of the Gulf Coast in the wake of this summer's oil spill. Wearing white shrimping boots covered in oil stains, Nungesser -- who's currently pushing for incentives to encourage natural gas companies to drill in his parish -- led Rioux on a tour of some of the marsh areas still heavily soaked by crude from the spill, pointing out that cleanup crews are nowhere in sight. Recent reports have indicated that oil is still washing up on the shores of other parts of the state as well.

"The land is washing away as we speak," Nungesser told the paper. "With so little being done to clean this up, we're never going to win this battle."

The Coast Guard's Lauer told the paper that because the Louisiana marshlands are "extremely fragile," the cleanup efforts in those areas are moving forward cautiously and deliberately. "You can easily do more harm than good if you're not careful," Lauer said.

Nungesser was having none of it. "Don't give me that song and dance ... ," he said to Rioux. "You've got a procedure to follow, and I've got a parish to save." For emphasis, he added that Lauer could "kiss my a*@!"

(Photo of oiled Louisiana marsh grass: AP/Gerald Herbert)