Read this report. Excerpt:
The blockade to Elmer’s [Island] is now four cop cars strong. As we pull up, deputies start bawling us out; all media need to go to the Grand Isle community center, where a “BP Information Center” sign now hangs out front.
Inside, a couple of Times-Picayune reporters circle BP representative Barbara Martin, who tells them that if they want passage to Elmer they have to get it from another BP flack, Irvin Lipp; Grand Isle beach is closed too, she adds. When we inform the Times-Pic reporters otherwise, she asks Dr. Hazlett if he’s a reporter; he says, “No.” She says, “Good.” She doesn’t ask me. We tell her that deputies were just yelling at us, and she seems truly upset. For one, she’s married to a Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputy. For another, “We don’t need more of a black eye than we already have.”
“But it wasn’t BP that was yelling at us, it was the sheriff’s office,” we say.
“Yeah, I know, but we have…a very strong relationship.”
“What do you mean? You have a lot of sway over the sheriff’s office?”
When I tell Barbara I am a reporter, she stalks off and says she’s not talking to me, then comes back and hugs me and says she was just playing. I tell her I don’t understand why I can’t see Elmer’s Island unless I’m escorted by BP. She tells me BP’s in charge because “it’s BP’s oil.”
“But it’s not BP’s land.”
“But BP’s liable if anything happens.”
“So you’re saying it’s a safety precaution.”
“Yeah! You don’t want that oil gettin’ into your pores.”
“But there are tourists and residents walking around in it across the street.”
“The mayor decides which beaches are closed.” So I call the Grand Isle police requesting a press liason, only to get routed to voicemail for Melanie with BP. I call the police back and ask why they gave me a number for BP; they blame the fire chief.
I reach the fire chief. “Why did the police give me a number for BP?” I ask.
“That’s the number they gave us.”
When I tell Chief Aubrey Chaisson that I would like to get a comment on Barbara’s intimations–and my experience so far–that BP is running the show, he says he’ll meet me in a parking lot. He pulls in, rolls down the window of his maroon Crown Victoria, and tells me that I can’t trust the government or big corporations. When everyone saw the oil coming in as clear as day several days before that, BP insisted it was red tide–algae. Chaisson says he’s half-Indian and grew up here and just wants to protect the land. When I tell him BP says the inland side of the island is still clean, he spits, “They’re fucking liars. There’s oil over there. It’s already all up through the pass.” The spill workers staying at my motel later tell me they’ve been specifically instructed by BP not to talk to any media, but they’re pissed because BP tried to tell them that the crude they were swimming around in to move an oil containment boom was red tide, dishwashing-liquid runoff, or mud.