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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Vice President Biden's Visit To New Orleans

A pool reporter is providing updates on Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Louisiana where he is there to assess the damages from the BP oil spill.

Here's the most recent update (as of 1:01 pm EST).

The motorcade arrived at 10 a.m. at the unified command center in downtown New Orleans, where a half-dozen protestors stood outside in a light rain carrying signs that said, "Oil kills."

Vice President Biden went to the 14th floor of the 24-story Poydras Plaza, where more than 100 BP, government and military offcials were seated at rows of tables working on laptop computers in a cavernous office dubbed "the bullpen."

The workers were arranged in various groupings, such as "Critical Resources Unit," "Documentation Unit," and "Technical Specialists." A large projection TV flashed weather updates and the latest track for Tropical Storm Alex. The offices are the same ones used by FEMA after Hurricane Katrina.

Sitting at the head of a horseshoe arrangement of tables behind temporary partitions at one end of the bullpen, Biden was flanked by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on his left and Adm. Thad Allen on his right.

Also participating in the briefing were Jindal; Cao; BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles; NOAA Adminstrator Jane Lubchenco; Rear Adm. James Watson, the federal on-scene coordinator; Rear Adm. Paul Frederick Zukunft; Charles Henry, Jr., NOAA senior scientific coordinator; Kari Sheets, a NOAA scientist; and Michael Joseph Saucier, a regional supervisor for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement.

After an hourlong briefing, Watson gave Vice President Biden a brief tour of the bullpen.

The vice president  seemed impressed with the size of the operation and said, "I don't think the American people have any idea" how many resources are being used to fight the spill.

Watson said the "Documentation Unit" records everything that happens at the unified command center, where more than 430 people work each day.

"We're learning a lot," Watson said. "There's never been an oil spill like this in history. So we're recording everything so we can learn from history."

The pooler added this bit of info as well.  We are enroute to Pomes Seafood, an eastern New Orleans wholesaler that used to serve free all-you-can-eat crabs at nearby Crazy Al’s bar on Wednesday nights. The good deed typically required 600 to 800 pounds of crab each week. It’s unclear whether the oil spill has impacted this popular tradition.

Bobby Jindal is asking BP to fund a 20-year, $400 million program to test seafood for oil contamination and rehabilitate fisheries.

"Thirty percent of the nation's seafood comes from waters off Louisiana, where commercial fishing is $2-billion-a-year industry while recreational anglers contribute another $1 billion to the local economy", said Jindal.

"Our message to BP is that the cost of this program is just a fraction of the damages that could be caused if we don't do this."

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