Deepwater Horizon

Fire boat crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in 2010. 

I opened my Warehouse District restaurant, Carmo, on April 20, 2010 — the day Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people, spilling 5 million barrels of crude into our waters and forever changing the place we call home.

We’ve all learned the hard and costly lessons of Deepwater Horizon since then. Unfortunately, Washington, D.C. wants us to forget everything we learned, instead opening up our oceans to more drilling, less oversight of drilling operations, and now rolling back our nation’s most basic and important environmental law.

On January 10, the Trump administration announced it plans to roll back the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), excluding more projects from NEPA review and allowing project developers to write the environmental analysis.

Trump plan would speed up Louisiana infrastructure projects; critics call out threat to environment

We know what that looks like. Deepwater Horizon was exempted from full environmental review under NEPA. As a result, the economic and environmental impacts of a blowout were never analyzed, mitigated or properly considered. We lived the costly lesson of that mistake.

The notion that we can rely on the project proponent to write an adequate assessment of impacts should be laughable after seeing BP’s proposal for an oil spill response plan. In the company’s spill scenarios, fish, marine mammals and birds escaped serious harm, beaches remained pristine, and water quality was only a temporary problem. And those were the company’s projections for a spill about 10 times worse than Deepwater Horizon.

After doing an analysis of BP’s spill assessment, The Associated Press determined the company’s officials had pretty much been making it up as they went along. But under the new NEPA rollbacks, the government would give the BPs of the world the ability to write the environmental impact analysis. That is absurd.

As a business owner, I’m well aware of the burdens of overregulation. But as both a businessperson and Louisianian, I care about our overall economy and our environment. Don’t believe those who suggest NEPA is a regulatory burden; it’s plain common sense to anybody who cares about our overall economy and environment. Rolling back NEPA might help major corporations that are more concerned with profits than sustainability, but it will put at risk so many other businesses — and future generations who will inherit the messes they leave behind.

The administration’s NEPA rollback proposal means more exposure to riskier projects. It encourages agencies to reduce or eliminate the need for review of project impacts, and hands over critical analysis of impacts to the companies that benefit from ignoring them.

We need to make sure Washington knows that here in Louisiana, businesspeople and residents alike remember the lessons of the past, and that we don’t want to repeat the same devastating mistakes again.


executive head chef and founder of Carmo

New Orleans