Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Biden Visits The Gulf Region

Discusses claims payments & uniform federal standard for seafood safety
Vice President Joe Biden met with fishermen and seafood restaurant owners whose livelihoods have been demolished by the BP oil spill, during his first tour of the Gulf region on Tuesday.

Biden's visit followed that of a cadre of top American chefs who visited New Orleans on Sunday, to meet with local chefs and discuss seafood safety. That group included Tom Colicchio, who joined First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House when she launched Chefs Move To Schools.

After touring the federal command Ccenter for the spill cleanup, Biden visited Pomes Seafood in New Orleans, Louisiana, where owner Chris Pomes and other local business owners described the economic impact of the spill. During the press conference following his visit, Biden pledged more help, surrounded by the desperate fishermen and restaurateurs. (Above: Biden with Pomes)

"Some of the guys behind me made some claims, and they've gotten partial payment. The concern was: Is this it? It ain't it. It ain't it," Biden said. "This is the beginning. This is not the end."

Biden told the group that citizen claims filed against BP would be paid even if they exceeded the $20 billion the company set aside in an escrow account.

"That $20-billion fund, that's not a ceiling," Biden said. "BP is required to pay whatever it is [that] falls under their responsibility, whether it ends up being $25, $30, $40 or $50 billion."

President Obama has made four trips to the Gulf region since the oil spill began on April 20, 2010. During his last visit, on June 14, he assured America's eaters that the federal government had a rigorous testing protocol for seafood in place, and ate plenty of it, to illustrate its safety.

Later in the day, Biden announced that federal agencies and the Gulf states had agreed to uniform safety standards for seafood coming out of the region. The move came as fishermen have received mixed signals on food safety — in some cases, they have been cleared to fish, only to find their catch deemed unsafe by the Food and Drug Administration.

"We want one single standard so y'all don't have to worry about where you fish, if you can fish, and when the waters are open, whether they're federal waters or state waters," Biden said.

Above: Biden kisses Carol Rotolo, a seafood restaurant owner, during his visit to Pomes Seafood.

*AP photos