It’s not just the environment being damaged as the Deepwater Horizon oil well continues to spew crude into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s also the 1st Amendment.
New rules issued last week by the United States Coast Guard prevent the public—and that includes reporters and photographers—from getting within 65 feet of any oil response vessel or booms on the water or beaches. Violators can be fined up to $40,000 and charged with a Class D felony.
Both local and national reporters are complaining that the restrictions prevent them from accurately covering the response to the spill. Response head Thad Allen of the Coast Guard defended the new restrictions by first saying it was for the safety of the public, then changing it to the safety of the workers.
These restrictions are in addition to restrictions on aircraft over the area, and rules that ban the workers from speaking to the media.
Clearly what’s at work here is BP and the Federal government are trying to cover up the lousy job they’re doing with the cleanup. And maybe they’re also covering up some shenanigans as well.
There have been reports of workers suffering from ailments attributed to exposure to the oil and/or chemicals and of sand being dumped on the beaches to cover up tar balls. But getting an accurate picture of what is going on is impossible with the government’s restrictions.
As a candidate, President Barack Obama promised the greatest transparency ever from his administration. But as has been the case with this president since his inauguration, reality is far removed from his campaign rhetoric.