Confirmed victory

As several news sources reported recently, the Coast Guard has put new restrictions that prevent the public—including members of the media—from approaching within 65-feet of response vessels or booms on the water or beaches. 

And since booms are often placed more than forty feet from islands or marshlands, this means that photographers, bloggers, reporters, and even volunteers, won’t be able to get close enough to oil-drenched wildlife to bear witness. To report. To help. 

Violators will face a $40,000 fine and prosecution for a Class D felony. 

The buffer zone has been implemented under the guise of safety, to “protect members of the response effort…by limiting access to and through deployed protective boom," according to the Coast Guard's news release. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said that this isn’t “unusual.” But who cares if it’s unusual? It is unnecessary. It is unconscionable. It is unacceptable. 

So tell the Coast Guard, Congress, and President Obama that you will not look away from the most egregious environmental catastrophe in our nation’s history. Tell them that you care, about the wildlife affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill and about the health of our oceans. Tell them that you have a right to know what is happening in the Gulf, and that you will not be ignored. 

Update 07/15/10: On Monday, July 12, 2010 the Associated Press reported that the Coast Guard has lifted the ban on the media access to the spill, unless there are direct security or safety threats. While it's still difficult for volunteers to get close enough to help, the media is no longer blocked from bearing witness to the greatest ecological disaster in U.S. history.

Photo credit: ingridtaylar

Letter to
U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Senate
President of the United States
I was shocked and dismayed to learn of the new law the Coast Guard has implemented, restricting the public—including members of the media—from approaching within 65-feet of response vessels or booms on the water or beaches near the oil spill.

Because booms are often placed more than forty feet from islands or marshlands, this means that photographers, bloggers, reporters, and even volunteers, won’t be able to get close enough to oil-drenched wildlife to bear witness to the tragedy. To report on the clean-up efforts. To help.

And if they do get close enough, they will face a $40,000 fine and prosecution for a Class D felony for their heroic efforts.

As you are aware, the Deepwater Horizon disaster is the most egregious environmental catastrophe in our nation’s history. Eleven lives were lost in the initial blow-out and the death toll of wildlife—of birds, dolphins, sea turtles, fish, and sharks—cannot be tallied. No doubt, B.P. wants to make sure it stays that way. But the Coast Guard should be encouraging transparency, to help ensure that the recovery efforts are being handled efficiently, swiftly, and competently. It should not be aiding and abetting the perpetrator of this disaster by criminalizing those who photograph the evidence. The media and the volunteers are not the enemy.

I urge you to act immediately to encourage the Coast Guard to repeal the new restrictions that criminalize members of the public and the media from approaching within 65-feet of response vessels or booms on the water or beaches near the oil spill. The public has a right to know what is being done to protect our nation’s oceans, soil, and wildlife from the repercussions of this tragedy, and we will not be ignored.