Dean Najuoks, Yadkin Riverkeeper: What was Waterkeeper’s involvement in the BP oil spill?
Kennedy: A lot of times when you have a local disaster that is a continental-scale cataclysm of the kind that we had with BP, the people who are most affected don’t really have a voice at the table. The decisions come from Washington and elected officials, so the fishermen, the hotel owners, the outfitters, the water people who are most impacted do not have their hands on the reins of power. They don’t have a bullhorn that allows them to get on TV, so we miss an opportunity to tell their stories which elucidate the true costs of environmental injury to our country.
I was very proud during the BP oil spill to have a dozen waterkeepers in the Gulf who took leadership roles in explaining this disaster to the American public. They did it with a level of sophistication, local knowledge, capacity for public speaking and ability to elicit public empathy that you don’t normally see during these kinds of public disasters unless you have a really energetic journalist who is covering them. We were able to provide Casey Callaway, who was on CNN every Saturday, we were able to call the major networks and say that we have boots on the ground in all of these areas that were impacted who can answer the toughest question and can explain the local impact of this disaster on the public. Because of them, the story lasted longer and the public got a clearer picture of what was going on in the Gulf. As a result, the long term future of oil drilling has really changed. Waterkeepers will have a place at the table. And environmentalists will have the most sophisticated voices at the table who will demand the most sophisticated safeguards and disaster prevention equipment available.