The coastal restoration petition launched on July 20 by the local advocacy group Women of the Storm ran into controversy last week with the withdrawal of Sandra Bullock, whose publicist said Bullock was not informed of the group's ties to "big oil." Bullock's withdrawal followed a report on the Huffington Post titled, "Wetlands front group funded by big oil wants taxpayers to foot the bill for BP's Gulf destruction." The petition's restorethegulf.com website listed the America's Wetland Foundation as a sponsor. The foundation receives money from oil companies and was established in 2002 as a public relations effort to improve their image.
The foundation also created a separate campaign recently called America's Energy Coast, drawing attention to the money spent on coastal restoration by oil companies. The AWF is chaired by retired Whitney Bank chief executive R. King Milling, whose wife, Anne Milling, founded Women of the Storm in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Anne Milling says she has asked for a meeting with Bullock to showcase her group's work since 2006, describing the celebrity's withdrawal as a "huge disappointment." Women of the Storm has also changed the designation of AWF from "sponsor" to "partner" on its website, because "in no way has any oil company given any money to this effort (the video and petition)," she says. "This is the most independent group of people imaginable. Our whole effort was to get money for coastal restoration, and we have not tied the petition to any particular piece of legislation." The website had drawn 120,000 signatures by press time. — Matt Davis