National Press Club

New Orleans Mayor Blasts BP and Government Failures

August 19, 2010

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The Gulf oil spill hammered a region "nine times the size of Washington, D.C. and the government failed to do its job," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told a packed NPC ballroom crowd Aug. 19.

He ripped BP for its failure for three months to cap its well.

"It finally capped the well," he said, "but I have no confidence in its claim that all the oil has gone. This is a defining moment for the country and New Orleans...the U.S. economy is linked to the Gulf."

Moreover, he said, he believes BP "is poised to cut and run."

With more than 24,000 jobs lost from the spill, Landrieu said he will urge President Obama to lift the moratorum on Gulf drilling when Obama travels to New Orleans Aug. 29 for the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

But Landrieu said "the future is not about survival but about resurrection...this is the beginning of the beginning."

He cited major strides in rebuilding the city's schools, neighborhoods and health-care system. The city now has more than 87 health clinics, he said, and held up its Columbia Park as a model. "The New Orleans planning is the largest planning effort in U.S. history," Landrieu said.

Landrieu saluted the Justice Departrment for responding to his call for help in reforming the corruption-plagued New Orleans police department. The city has long had one of the nation's highest crime rates.

Landrieu became mayor May 3 after winning 66 percent of the vote and all but one of the 366 precincts. He succeded Ray Nagin.

The former Louisiana lieutenant governor is the brother of Sen. Mary Landrieu, who was at the head table, and son of former New Orlenas Mayor Moon Landrieu, former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Asked whether it makes sense to rebuild a city much of which is below sea level, he was quick to mention Miami, New York and other cities parts of which he said are below sea level.

But in applauding the Army Corps of Engineers' work on his city's fortifications, he said it had not rebuilt the levies to withstand "category four and five storms we know are coming our way." He said storms are getting stronger and more frequent.

With a plea for more federal aid for the city and its region, Landrieu emphasized repeatedly that Gulf seafood is safe. He said the Gulf supplied 30 percent of the nation's seafood. He also said Louisiana supplies the nation with more oil than it gets from Saudi Arabia.

-- Robert Webb,