The Environmental Spectator

Henny-Penny and the Oily Water

"It's those wonderful environmental regulators in the Obama Administration," she clucks.

By 7.2.10

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The excited telephone voice was Henny-Penny's. I hadn't heard from the founder and Recording Secretary of The Holy Order of The Sky Is Falling (THOOTSIF) in weeks, so was anxious to learn why she was so enthusiastic.

H-P: It's those wonderful environmental regulators in the Obama Administration. I was thrilled to learn that they agree with me that, when it comes to the environment, we can never be too safe."

Me: What is it this time?

H-P: When the Dutch offered to lend some of their skimmer boats to soak up oil from the big spill, the Obama people declined because the boats discharged water with some oil still in it. 

You see, the regulations require that the discharged water be 99.9985 percent pure, and these boats didn't quite match that.

Me: We're talking about sea water, Ms. H-P. That level of purity was intended for the bilge pump of a ship.

H-P: Just the same, you can never be too safe. The government finally did accept the skimmers, but it required them to be dismantled from Dutch ships and installed on American ships. Of course, our own crews had to be trained to use them.

Me: So, the White House dithered while thousands upon thousands of gallons of oil per day were coming out of that well at the bottom of the sea. Some foresight. Did you know that Obama could have waived that water-discharge rule with the snap of his fingers? And, the only reason his Administration required the skimmers to be taken off Dutch ships and remounted on American ones was to appease some unions which insisted there be no waiver of the Jones Act which requires American crews on American ships in American waters. I don't know which is worse, the incompetence of the Administration or its kowtowing to a special interest. Together, this made a bad situation worse.

H-P: Just the same, we can never be too safe when it comes to the environment.

Me: You must be kidding. It will take years for Mother Nature to heal all the damage that has been done from over two months of oil spilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Every minute's delay makes it worse. The Obama Administration has been behind the curve from (to use their own phrase) "Day One." 

H-P: You're such a skeptic. First it was global warm---er--climate change, and now it's the oil spill cleanup. Can't the government do anything right?

Me: Not this one. Speaking of your beloved "climate change," there is some good news. Thanks to it, the Western United States had the wettest winter and coolest spring in a decade. California, for example, with a Mediterranean climate (virtually no precipitation between May and October). Its hills and forests are usually very dry by now. That means June is the beginning of the wild fire season. So far, though, there have been only 642 fires that have burned 3,246 acres, compared with 1,343 files covering 49,410 acres by this time last year. You can pass that on to your beloved THOOTSIF Pontiff, Al Gore.

H-P: I will, I will. What can be done to cut the number of fires even more?

Me: Ask your Pontiff to talk to Mother Nature about her lightning and to careless campers who leave campfire embers smoldering.


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About the Author
Peter Hannaford was closely associated with the late President Reagan for a number of years. He is a member of the board of the Committee on the Present Danger. His latest book is “Presidential Retreats.”