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CONTACT: Food & Water Watch
Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch: (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.
Cao Accountable to BP Cronies, Not Constituents
Received $18,000 in Campaign Donations from Edison Chouest; Company Leases Support Facility to BP for Atlantis Rig
NEW ORLEANS - July 14 - Last week concerned community leaders were disappointed when Representative Joseph Cao (R-LA) refused to take action to shut down BP Atlantis. For over a year national consumer group Food & Water Watch and New Orleans-based community group, A Community Voice Louisiana, have been fighting to shutter Atlantis until proper legally required safety documentation can be produced.
Representative Cao has received $18,000 in campaign donations from Edison Chouest Offshore, a company that has a number of contractual relationships with BP, including its lease to BP of an onshore support facility for Atlantis, which also supported Deepwater Horizon before it exploded in April. The company was his largest contributor in 2009-2010. "Are his financial contributions clouding his judgment on this issue? We have serious concerns about that," said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch.
"Over 24 members of Congress have told the Obama administration to listen to an expert who has said that activity on the platform should be suspended until it can be proven safe to operate. But our own representative will not act," said Reverend Kenneth G. Thibodeaux of the Asia Baptist Church in New Orleans. "This is a disgrace."
The news of Rep. Cao's seeming indifference came in a meeting with A Community Voice Louisiana last Friday-the same week as oil from the Deepwater Horizon was discovered to have washed into Lake Pontchartrain.
The BP Atlantis is one of the deepest oil and natural gas platforms in the world, located 150 miles off the coast of Louisiana. In March 2009, a whistleblower informed authorities that Atlantis has been operating without a large percentage of the engineer-approved documents needed for it to operate safely. BP management has even noted that an accident resulting from "catastrophic Operator errors" could occur on Atlantis due to its missing documents. A spill on the Atlantis platform could be many times larger than the calamity caused by the explosion and sinking of BP's Deepwater Horizon facility.
"BP needs to put a premium on safety, starting with Atlantis," said Robert "Tiger" Hammond, President of the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO. "The Southeast Louisiana Building and Construction trades have met with Congressman Cao and found him to lack knowledge of the issues. We're not shocked that Representative Cao doesn't understand the gravity of the situation on the BP Atlantis rig. But the people of New Orleans deserve better representation on these issues."
"722 concerned residents signed postcards and petitions letting Representative Cao know they want Atlantis shut down until it's proven safe," said Beth Butler of A Community Voice Louisiana, who requested the meeting. "We fear he is siding with BP and its cronies at the expense of safety in the Gulf."
Community members also delivered to Representative Cao a letter signed by 60 Gulf-area organizations representing fishermen, conservationists, outdoor enthusiasts, social service organizations, faith-based organizations, small businesses, and neighborhood communities calling on Department of Interior head Ken Salazar to perform a proper investigation of Atlantis. Half of the groups were from New Orleans.