BP Oil Spill Threatens Coastal Communities & Challenges US Energy Choices

By Jacqui Patterson, Director of the NAACP Climate Justice Initiative

The BP Oil Drilling Disaster is yet another example of the string of adverse impacts, particularly on communities of color, of US over reliance on fossil fuels (coal, oil, etc.) We've seen several acute incidents resulting in deaths in these last few weeks due to dangerous coal and oil processing. We've also seen, through our Clearing the Air Road Tour, the death of a thousand cuts communities of color and low income communities are experiencing by living in communities that are constantly polluted by our disproportionate exposure to toxic coal fired power plants, which are linked to respiratory illnesses such as asthma as well as lung cancer.

The Oil Drilling Disaster is imperiling livelihoods, health, and the animal habitats of coastal communities. Spewing minimally 5,000 barrels (over 200, 000 gallons) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico daily, the oil spill is threatening communities in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. As a sentinel for human and civil rights the NAACP is gravely concerned with reports from our branches in the affected areas of health impacts they are witnessing and experiencing from noxious fumes, fisherman who know longer have a source of income, houseboat residents who are finding their marshes filling with oil and are worried about displacement, etc.

Besides dealing with the immediate issue before us of the BP Oil Crisis, as we've indicated in our draft statement, we as a nation need to take a long hard look at how our energy choices are disproportionately imperiling the lives of communities of color while more broadly negatively impacting the wellbeing of the planet.