Maybe managing the massive, notoriously incestuous North Broward Hospital District wasn't enough of a challenge for Alan Levine. He left that post in December 2007 to become secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. In a little more than two years, he's had to deal with a major flood, a financial drought, a couple of hurricanes, and... oh yeah... the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
it's apparent that Levine's decisions will once again have an impact on the health of South Floridians. With that in mind, I asked Levine to give his analysis from the front lines.
His greatest source of frustration has been the Environmental Protection Agency. Back in early May Levine demanded that regulators force BP to produce research supporting the use of chemical dispersant being used on the oil. He never got that research. That's because it doesn't exist.
Our argument is that when you trade one thing for another, you usually want to know what you are trading for. In this case, we are trading for oil going to places we will have no idea it is going until it is there...Not to mention the damage to our underwater ecosystem off Louisiana's coast, which represents 40% of America's wetlands.
In short, a federal agency that had had a recent lesson in the dangers of allowing Big Oil to call its own shots (i.e. the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig) had allowed Big Oil to be reckless one more time. Says Levine:
They are supposed to protect the environment, and in this case, they were nothing more than a mouthpiece for BP. Without the benefit of science, they should not have permitted these dispersants to be used in a way they were not designed to be.
Of course, what's happening now off the coast of Louisiana is a preview of what's coming our way courtesy ocean currents. "The issue for Florida is that there are these underwater plumes that are very deep, and they could impact estuaries, biosystems and the food chain," says Levine.
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If BP does not fund this plan, our seafood industry is dead. Nobody will buy Gulf coast seafood -- and if we can't prove its safe, I don't blame them...which is why we need to do the testing. When people ask, "How do you know its safe?", unlike EPA and BP, the State of Louisiana wants to prove it with science and data.
Here's an interview Levine gave to a local television station a few weeks ago.