After one of the faster NEPA reviews in the history of American environmental policy, the Obama administration Wednesday approved the construction of five more barrier islands off the coast of Louisiana to protect sensitive wetlands from being destroyed by massive oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico.
A total of six projects have now been approved for the areas most at risk for long-term impact by oil. The adminstration's on-scene coordinator, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, directed BP to pay for the construction of all six of the sand berms -- and BP surprisingly supported that decision.
"This administration will hold BP responsible for providing full payment for any strategy that will protect our valuable coastal communities from the impacts of their catastrophe."
BP said Wednesday that it supports the administration's decision, and that the cost of the project would be around $360 million -- double the amount it has spent so far in helping the regional response to the oil spill.
"The federal government and the state of Louisiana have agreed that the barrier islands construction is an effective response to the spill, and we look forward to working with them on this project," said BP CEO Tony Hayward.
BP's sudden willingness to pay the construction costs of the sand berms suggests a change of heart for the company, which had recently referred to the plan as a "hurricane relief project."
But Jindal kept the pressure on BP in a press conference today, emphasizing that "It's been almost a week and BP hasn't done anything on that first segment." On May 27, Adm. Allen ordered BP to begin construction of the first section of barrier island, but the company has yet to take any action on that move.
If they ultimately do get built, today's approval of the barrier island plan represents a big political coup for Gov. Jindal, who for several weeks has been championing the islands as critical to protecting Louisiana's already vanishing marshes.
"The right thing for us to do is to fight this oil on our sand," said Gov. Jindal today while touring Pass a Loutre, one of the first areas to be hit hard by the encroaching oil.
"I'd much rather fight this oil on the sand than in our wetlands," Jindal said.