Time for a new oil industry watchdog: Citizens!!!

The Oil Spill Commission is considering recommending Gulf Coast Citizens' Advisory Councils - an opportunity for local communities to have a role in protecting their environment and securing their livelihoods.

During the final public meeting on the BP oil spill disaster, the commission indicated that it would recommend reforms to address the current regime of lax safety and environmental regulations, future oil spill response, and Gulf Coast restoration. Not surprisingly, one theme surfaced that cuts across all of these areas - the need for increased local engagement and strong citizen oversight of Gulf oil and gas activities.

Tell the Oil SPill Commission to include the creation of Gulf Coast Citizens' Advisory Councils in their final recommendations.

I urge the Oil Spill Commission to recommend the establishment Gulf of Mexico Regional Citizens' Advisory Councils to give local communities a real voice in energy industry decisions that will impact their lives and homes.

To maximize the effectiveness and transparency of the councils:

1) The Councils must be composed of voting members from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Each state will have 6 voting members on a Council and represent the following interests: commercial fin fish and shellfish industry; charter fishing industry; restaurant, hotel, and tourism industries; indigenous communities; marine and coastal conservation organizations; incorporated and unincorporated municipalities.

2) The duration of the Councils will be throughout the lifetime of energy development, transportation, and facility removal activities in the Gulf of Mexico. The Councils shall be self-governing and conduct the operations of the Councils in public to the maximum extent practicable, and make the work products the Councils adopts available to the public. An individual selected as a voting member of the Council may not engage in any activity that may conflict with the execution of the functions or duties of the individual as a Council member.

3) The Councils will (a) provide comprehensive oversight and monitoring of policies, permits, and regulations relating to the activities, operation, and maintenance of the facilities and tank vessels; monitor the environmental impacts of the operation of the facilities and tank vessels; monitor oil spill prevention and response plans, including plans relating to blowout prevention and response, for the facilities and tank vessels; and recommend standards and conditions for regulations intended to ensure the safe and environmentally sound operation and maintenance of the facilities and tank vessels; (b) provide recommendations for, and otherwise assist, any oil spill recovery or spill research institute established for the Gulf of Mexico; and (c) conduct such other activities within the authority and scope of the Councils as the Councils considers appropriate.

4) The Councils shall have access to oil and gas industry facilities and records that are relevant to the proper execution of the duties of the Councils.

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