Since 2004, Riki Ott and her staff have used multi-state tours to increase public awareness of the environmental, health, and social costs of oil and gas activities and to identify and implement actions and resources that will reduce risks or prevent harm.
Since the BP Deepwater Horizon (DWH) disaster, these tours have been instrumental in forming a national, grassroots, ad-hoc citizens’ coalition engaged in strengthening oil spill prevention and response. The coalition specifically aims to ban dispersants and other toxic chemicals used in spill response. We are now creating ALERT, A Locally Empowered Response Team, dedicated to forging informed awareness of the human health risks of our oil dependency, utilizing science and community-level capacity building. ALERT is a model communities may use as an example to create their own, similar programs, and provides knowledge, tools, resources, and training to educate, test, and treat people at risk of petrochemical exposure from oil/gas activities.
In mid-May 2014, we launched an 11-state tour organized in three segments. We first traveled to Gulf Coast communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the western Florida panhandle that were harmed by the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon (DWH) disaster. In the next two segments we visited communities in the existing and operational Keystone tar sands oil corridor. This included the western Great Lakes (Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin); and and finally our third leg of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
Our purpose was threefold. We presented the ALERT program; assessed regional needs for information; evaluated the capacity to reduce or prevent harm in communities of planned oil and gas activities; networked to connect efforts across regions; and identified prospective regional partners. This blog shares information, resources, and ideas from our trip, as well as an action plan.