Exxon's long-awaited plan to clean up spilled oil from some of the world's most beautiful waterways and beaches is too little, too late, state and federal officials said.
Exxon, according to a draft of the cleanup plan obtained by United Press International, wants to hire 4,000 local workers and begin cleaning the beaches by April 22, hoping to repair damage from America's worst oil spill before the weather turns stormy at the end of September."You can't buy back three weeks. That's the time Exxon has lost," said Dennis Kelso, commissioner, Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation. "And it's going to take at least another three weeks before Exxon gets its program in motion.
"Frankly, its ability to deliver on a September deadline is pretty optimistic to say the least," Kelso said.
State officials were particularly angered that the plan included only beach cleanup and failed to address skimming millions of gallons of oil from the surface of scenic waterways and how to dispose of what is picked up.
"We've got tons and tons of oily gunk our crews are bringing in," Kelso said, "but there's no plan to get rid of it."
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Yost, ordered to the site by President Bush, said time was crucial because "the oil is weathering rapidly. It's forming into tar balls and covering areas that are getting hard to reach," Yost said.
Based on the draft, crews must work at the rate of more than 2 miles per day to finish the job on time.