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News > Do's and Don'ts: Reacting to oil spill in Gulf of Mexico
Deepwater Horizon Response
GULF OF MEXICO - A C-130 aircraft from the 910th Airlift Wing, Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, drops an oil-dispersing chemical into the Gulf of Mexico as part of the Deepwater Horizon Response effort May 5, 2010. Reservists from the 910th AW are in Mississippi to assist in cleanup efforts. The wing specializes in aerial spray and is the Department of Defense's only large area fixed-wing aerial spray unit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)
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Do's and Don'ts: Reacting to oil spill in Gulf of Mexico

Posted 7/9/2010   Updated 7/9/2010 Email story   Print story


by 1st Lt. Torrance Hoeft
30th Space Wing

7/9/2010 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- Today, July 8, marks the 80th day of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Vandenberg is over two thousand miles away from the spill, however the base's proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the many oil rigs marring the view of the horizon serve as a constant reminder of how the central coast has been and could again be affected by a similar disaster.

In 1969, a blow out on an oil platform off the coast of Santa Barbara spewed almost 100,000 barrels of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean, which polluted nearby beaches and wetlands and killed more than 10,000 birds and other wildlife along the Central Coast. The oil spill prompted a delayed moratorium in 1981 on offshore drilling (with the notable exception of the Gulf of Mexico and parts of offshore Alaska), but Congress decided against renewing this ban in 2008.

This summer, there are many ways to help the Gulf Coast residents clean up their beaches, care for their wildlife and protect the beautiful California coastline. The residents of the Central Coast and the Gulf Coast now share a tragic bond; despite the distance, the Gulf Coast is closer than ever.

Do: Take regular leave and plan a summer vacation to the Gulf region. A vast majority of the beaches in the Gulf region have not been hit by oil, but are still suffering from a lack of tourism. Area hotels and restaurants are offering special rates and deals, making this vacation idea not only altruistic, but affordable too. Jimmy Buffet has teamed up with Sonny Landreth, Zac Brown, Kenny Chesney, Jessy Winchester and Allen Toussaint to offer a free concert in Gulf Shores, Ala., on July 11 in order to promote tourism to the area.

Don't: Military members who would like to travel to the Gulf to volunteer should not expect to be granted emergency leave or permissive temporary duty for the trip - even if they have family living there. In accordance with AFI 36-3003 on the Military Leave Program, emergency leave can only be approved if, "the member is affected by a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, or earthquake and a severe or unusual hardship would result if the member failed to return home."

Do: Donate. A donation will have the greatest impact if it goes to a large, established organization that has a known precedence of working on environmental disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. For example, the Nature Conservancy is the largest environmental non-profit in the United States and is working in the Gulf to restore reefs, plant seagrass and aid in marsh recovery so that the animals that survive the spill can find a new home. Visit The Nature Conservancy website to learn more about the work the Nature Conservancy is doing in the Gulf and for links on where you can donate.

Don't: Plan on traveling to the Gulf Coast to help clean up oil without proper training and equipment. Exposure to oil can lead to headaches, sore throats, eye irritation and even an increased risk for depression and post traumatic stress disorder in the weeks following the incident. However, according to the Deepwater Horizon Response Line, the relief effort is in desperate need of volunteers who are EMT certified, CPR certified, and (or) firefighters. Interested members who have these skills are urged to call the volunteer hotline at 866-448-5816 for more information.

Do: Help remove trash and debris from the beaches before the oil reaches them. No special training or safety equipment is required to help clean up beaches that have oil heading towards them. With the trash removed, the cleanup of the beaches becomes much more efficient. The volunteer hotline has more information about which beaches need to be combed for debris. There are also many opportunities to help with beach cleanup locally. On the second Saturday of every month, Sea Venture Resort hosts a beach clean up on Pismo Beach. The Resort provides coffee, doughnuts, trash bags and gloves so there is no gear requirement to volunteer!

Don't: Boycott. Boycotting BP gas stations doesn't hurt the company- just the local owners of that particular station. Most BP gas stations are not owned by BP, but by independent business owners who are already hurting financially due to the recession.

Do: Reduce your own petroleum use. The amount of oil spilling into the Gulf is estimated to be as high as 2.5 million gallons per day. Although this may sound like a huge amount, but it's also only about one tenth the amount of oil the United States uses every day! Taking the Breeze Bus, which travels between Lompoc, Vandenberg and Santa Maria, can save gas and save money- the Air Force will reimburse the money spent on public transportation to and from work.

Do: Vote. Residents of California's 23rd district (San Luis Obispo, Avila, Pismo, Santa Maria and Santa Barbara) are represented by Rep. Lois Capps. Residents of California's 24th district (Lompoc, Vandenberg Village, Vandenberg and Solvang) are represented by Rep. Elton Gallegly. Become familiar with their stances on energy issues such as oil subsidies, gas exploration, construction of new oil refineries and continued offshore drilling; as representatives, both are up for reelection this year.

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