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AFT Resolutions

SHORT- AND LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES OF THE BP OIL SPILL ON GULF COAST RESIDENTS

WHEREAS, the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and the subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico ranks as the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history. On April 20, 2010, the rig exploded—killing 11 workers and injuring several more. Subsequently, the damaged oil well spewed uncontrolled amounts of crude oil into the Gulf. Scientists in June 2010 estimated that an amount comparable to one Exxon Valdez oil spill every four days was being released into the Gulf since the explosion; and

WHEREAS, BP has demonstrated its inability to contain and/or significantly reduce the amount of oil leaking from the well, and a permanent solution is at least months away; and

WHEREAS, Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice are conducting independent investigations of the explosion and leak. According to several authorities, BP has one of the worst safety records in the industry having been cited, for example, in 2007 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for safety lapses that resulted in the deaths of 15 workers and injury to another 170 in a west Texas refinery; and

WHEREAS, nearly 27,000 workers have been deployed to clean up oil as it reaches the shores of Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Texas and any other states affected. These workers are at risk of significant exposure to crude oil and dispersants applied to the oil spill. The protective gear that they must wear also puts them at risk of heat stress, and workers continue to complain of symptoms associated with exposure; and

WHEREAS, large portion of the 53 million residents of the Gulf Coast states are increasingly at risk of exposure to crude oil and contaminated food and water. Crude oil and the dispersants are recognized toxic chemicals that at certain exposure concentrations may cause serious illnesses and injuries in humans; and

WHEREAS, the entire Gulf ecology may suffer long-term damage on land and in the water. Fragile wetlands, wildlife, agricultural animals, marine mammals and other animals and coral reefs are at risk of irreparable damage as are thousands of birds, turtles, dolphins. Many other animals have already perished; and

WHEREAS, the oil spill continues to have a devastating impact on the tourism industry in the Gulf; commercial and recreational fishing has been suspended in the affected regions resulting in loss of jobs and revenue; and a moratorium on oil drilling will also have a huge impact on the economy of Louisiana; and

WHEREAS, the fiscal health of the affected Gulf states is at risk because of the potential loss of future tax revenue with funding for education and other essential services threatened; and

WHEREAS, the president has secured a pledge from BP to set up an independent $20 billion open-ended escrow account to compensate Gulf residents for losses associated with the spill. Other federal agencies are monitoring BP's efforts to cap the well in a timely and appropriate manner; and

WHEREAS, oil exploration and drilling can be dangerous and could become even more so as global oil demand increases; oil companies cut corners; and sources are depleted:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers urge the federal government to:

  • Continue to regulate the BP effort to cap the Deepwater Horizon well; and
  • Closely monitor the work of the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulations and Enforcement to prevent it from falling sway to undue oil industry influence and ensure it will consistently and diligently enforce stringent safety regulations and practices in the oil industry; and
  • Establish active public health surveillance of Gulf residents—with extra attention paid to children—in order to identify adverse health effects associated with the spill and to provide early intervention and treatment when possible; and
  • Mandate that BP compensate the residents of the Gulf as well as state and local governments for all losses associated with the spill for the long term; and
  • Put safeguards in place to prevent BP from abandoning its commitment to fund research on the impact of the oil spill on every aspect of life in the Gulf region and that BP will not interfere with the research and will pledge academic freedom to researchers; and
  • Assure that a permanent system of accountability and liability be put in place to compensate state and local governments as well as affected residents for losses associated with oil spills in the future; and
  • Secure a legally binding agreement from all oil companies to abide by industry standard best practices and all government regulations and standards, to accurately report all critical data associated with a spill in a timely manner; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT urge that preference for clean-up jobs be given to Gulf region residents. Workers hired for this work should be paid adequate wages and be given adequate training and equipment to perform their work in a safe manner; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT continue to advocate for an effective national energy policy that promotes expanded research and development of alternative energy systems that create good jobs in America while lessening our reliance on oil and fossil fuel.


(2010)