Thad Allen is full of shit
The Coast Guard says that rules aimed at keeping the public and news media away from the oil spill response are necessary to protect the environment and the people and equipment involved in the cleanup.
But the new “safety zone” that the agency has set up within 65 feet of any response vessels or booms on the beach or the water mostly protects BP from bad PR.
Since booms are often placed more than 40 feet outside of islands or marsh grasses, this additional buffer will make it difficult to document the effect of oil on the land or wildlife.
That’s not in the best interest of the Gulf Coast. Reporters and photographers, including those who work for The Times-Picayune, serve a vital function in documenting the disaster and the response.
This decision isn’t the only one that has hampered media coverage of the oil spill. The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered that no media flights to photograph the spill can go below 3,000 feet without special permission.
Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, national incident commander for the spill, said that the safety zone restrictions are not unusual. He said BP didn’t bring up the issue, but that local officials in Florida and elsewhere had raised safety concerns.
But plenty of local officials understand the need to inform the public. “Anytime you all want, you all can come in there wherever we go on our boats,” Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser told reporters.
At this point, the Coast Guard has not justified its position. In fact, its reasons keep changing. First the restrictions were needed to protect civilians. Now the claim is that workers and equipment are at risk. But what’s clearly at risk is the public’s right to know, and that deserves protection, too.