Gulf Oil Spills Sheds Lights On Clean Energy & Jobs
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

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Two workers take calls at BP's Crisis Command Center in Houston (Source: © BP p.l.c.).

As the the Gulf oil spill disaster clears its 60th day, the government has estimated that 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil are gushing into the Gulf of Mexico each day.

No one can estimate how much it will cost to fix the spill, but BP’s $20 billion escrow fund for clean up, recovery, and restitution to affected individuals and businesses is likely a good start. Thousands of species of wildlife, miles of wetlands already damaged after Hurricane Katrina, local seafaring jobs, and the health of clean up workers are at stake, says Leslie G. Fields, director of National Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships at the Sierra Club..

Fields and Michael Dorsey, assistant professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College, spoke with about President Barack Obama’s response to oil spill, the impact the disaster will have on black businesses, and explained what processes need to be put into place to ensure justice for gulf communities.

Black-owned enterprises in the Gulf are losing business, says Leslie G. Fields, a director at the Sierra Club. What specifically is at stake in the Gulf in terms of the disappearing wetlands, disappearing jobs, increased risk of well being of the communities?

Leslie G. Fields: The way of life [is just disappearing], [as well as ] cultures. Also, [there’s a loss in] tourism dollars. A lot of our seafood industry is down there … and the energy economy.  We need to have options for communities down there.  Then, of course, the wildlife is being destroyed.  We lose because of erosion from the channeling of the oil.

What does the oil spill mean for African American business owners?

Fields: It’s going to be very difficult. They are going to have to work with the government to make sure that they have the restitution that they need. If they are fishing community people, the fishing areas have been closed, so they are losing business. The businesses that support the fisher communities are also losing business. Those in tourism, with hotels are losing business. I don’t know how they will get by. The problem is we don’t know how long it is going to last and how much is going to get cleaned up.

BP has set aside $20 billion for recovery and compensation efforts. Is it enough?

Fields: I don’t know. It took about 20 years for all the civil petitions and complaints to get somewhat resolved after the Exxon Valdez [Oil Spill].  The government lawsuits were settled pretty quickly, I think, in a couple of years. There needs to be civil and criminal penalties enforced in this situation.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.