Republican gubernatorial front-runner and Gulf Coast native Bradley Byrne returned home today for the first time since Tuesday's primary election to thank his home county voters for their more than 2-to-1 support, and to blast the BP and federal government decision makers who he says have "failed miserably" in addressing the needs of area workers devastated by the BP oil spill disaster.
While speaking to members of the media at 5 Rivers with Mobile Bay at his back, Byrne said BP has hired too many out-of-state contractors to carry out various oil spill clean-up tasks while local shrimpers and charter boat captains and crews have been left idle by the disaster. "Our people are shut out because federal waters are closed and they have absolutely nowhere to go and nothing to do," Byrne said. "This is not a disaster of their making, yet they have been thrown to the wolves while out-of-touch corporate and government decision-makers invite out-of-state companies to come in and take what little work they might have been able to get."
Byrne said BP's failure to adequately hire local workers through its Vessels of Opportunity program is only one example of the "totally inept and inexcusable" actions of the company and the federal government during the disaster, which has now lingered for some 45 days with no fix in sight.
"BP promised the working people of this area that the company would "make them whole,' but I understand the claims process has become a nightmare for those who normally make their living during this time of year. Charter boat captains and others who count on this season to earn their living for the entire year have so far received a maximum claims reimbursement of only $5,000 while their losses and claims are often hundreds of thousands more," Byrne said. "And, apparently if they want to claim the rest of what is rightfully theirs they will have to complete literally thousands of pages of complicated paperwork."
Byrne noted that the federal government has left Alabama holding the bag as well. "The Coast Guard promised Alabama that the best resources would be employed and stay here to keep our coasts safe," Byrne said. "But that promise was broken too, when they moved many of our protective devices to other states. Now, with such limited protection, tar balls are reaching our beaches, but the Coast Guard won't authorize skimmers because they say it's "too soon.' What are they thinking?"
Byrne said the federal government has proven over and again that states cannot count on it for help. "As your governor I will fight to protect our way of life. We simply can't allow this kind of thing to happen again. We will take our destiny into our own hands by preparing our own crisis management plan, establishing proven and workable processes, and acquiring the resources we need to protect our economy, our environment and our people."