Jul 13, 2010 10:28 AM by Sharlee Barriere
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The Coast Guard has modified a policy on
safety zones around boom deployed on oiled coastlines, a policy
news organizations had said unnecessarily restricted coverage of
the impact of the BP oil spill and efforts to clean it up.
In a statement Monday night, the government's point man for the
spill, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said new procedures
permit credentialed news media free travel within the boom safety
"I have put out a direction that the press are to have clear,
unfettered access to this event, with two exceptions - if there is
a safety or security concern," said Allen. "This boom is critical
to the defense of the marshes and the beaches."
News organizations, including The Associated Press, had argued
being kept at least 65 feet away from the boom impeded the ability
to cover the spill.
Allen said that was not the intent of the restriction. "We need
to discriminate between media, which have a reason to be there and
somebody who's hanging around when we know that we've had equipment
vital to this region damaged," he said.
Allen said the safety zones were created to keep boats from
going over the top of booms or damaging it. Previously, news
organizations were required to contact local authorities each time
they wanted to go near boom.
The Coast Guard has provided frequent flights, boat trips and
overnight excursions into the spill zone since the BP-leased rig
Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20 and sank two days later. Still,
AP and other organizations argued the boom zone restriction
hindered the 1st Amendment right of freedom of the press.
Capt. James McPherson, a Coast Guard spokesman, said the service
has provided "unprecedented media access to the largest oil spill
response in U.S. history."
He said the revised policy "will increase the ability of the
media and the public to see the response effort."