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Oil rigs fell to Hurricane Katrina

Friday, October 22, 2010; A26

The Oct. 13 front-page article "How politics spilled into policy" did an excellent job of showing how offshore drilling safety and spill records were ignored and industry assertions believed as the Obama administration sought to open more areas to drilling.

But I would like to correct a misstatement, attributed to President Obama, that no oil rigs were destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. According to a report from the Department of Homeland Security, 115 oil platforms were destroyed and sunk, 52 were significantly damaged and 19 were set adrift during Hurricane Katrina.

After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the U.S. Coast Guard coordinated the cleanup of more than 8 million gallons of spilled oil, including six major and four medium-size spills, and more than 1,000 minor oil spills throughout the gulf region. To put that in perspective, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill totaled 11 million gallons; Deepwater Horizon, more than 200 million gallons.

A missing political calculus is that many Virginia politicians do not recognize the significant impact oil drilling could have on military operations along the Atlantic Coast. In the quest for oil revenue, some seem willing to sacrifice the golden goose of the military that has helped Virginia and other Atlantic states prosper.

Kay Slaughter, Charlottesville

The writer is a former senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

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