The Gulf Coast has been gripped with fear since the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and blowing open the well 50 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. It has been spewing an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil a day that now cover more than 4,000 square miles.
With the oil already lapping Louisiana shorelines, cities along the entire Gulf Coast of Florida began taking precautions against the slick’s onslaught. The Tampa Bay area still looks safer than the Florida Keys, but no one is ruling out the danger to our shoreline. And even if we avoid a direct hit, the economic and environmental impact is likely to be felt for years. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has described the spill as a “unique and still-evolving and potentially an unprecedented disaster.”
Recognizing the enormity of this story, McClatchy editors are coordinating all our newsrooms’ coverage, which you’ll find daily in the Bradenton Herald and on Bradenton.com. We also created a special online report at Bradenton.com/oilspill to display all the stories, photos and graphics, including an interactive map of the Gulf where you can click on icons for incident reports.
Anchored by Miami Herald Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal and Washington Bureau Chief John Walcott, this effort is creating a far deeper report for us.
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Journalists with the Biloxi Sun-Herald are on the front line in Mississippi and Louisiana. At the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, expertise is being gleaned on the oil industry. Editors at the Anchorage Daily News have enormous institutional knowledge from the Valdez oil spill, the largest in U.S. history that most say this spill will eclipse.
The Miami Herald has sent reporters to the Panhandle, as well as examining the potential threat to the Everglades and the Keys; the Bradenton Herald is teaming with them to examine every angle of potential impact to Florida.
The Washington bureau is digging into political ramifications, environmental enterprise and oil industry investigations. The Kansas City Star, Merced Sun-Star and most all of the other McClatchy properties are contributing to the investigative reports.
For this weekend, our reporters turned several key stories in addition to the major daily developments. Washington reporter Marisa Taylor examined how the Obama administration has granted oil and gas companies at least 27 exemptions from doing in-depth environmental studies of oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico — after the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded April 20. Herald sports reporter John Lembo told us how local fishermen and businesses are gearing up to pitch in with the relief effort.
On 1A today, Herald reporter Robert Napper explores how officials throughout our region are using the St. Petersburg Area Contingency Plan as a template to prepare for the worst should the Deep Horizon oil spill come to Florida’s west coast. Reporters Rich Mauer in Anchorage and Anna Tinsley in Fort Worth dig into BP’s past, exposing how BP subsidiaries have been convicted three times of environmental crimes in Alaska and Texas.
And in Business Monday tomorrow, reporter Sara Kennedy talks to businesses throughout Manatee County about the potential deadly impact the spill could have.
All in all, we plan to bring you the most thorough coverage possible as this catastrophic event unfolds. If you have a story to share, or can lend expertise to our coverage, please give us a call.
This community can come together in amazing ways in the face of adversity. As we prepare for the worst and hope for the best, we need to galvanize and learn from this nightmare.
Joan Krauter, Herald executive editor, can be reached at (941) 748-0411, ext. 2000.