The Spectacle Blog

Obama Admin: Criminally Negligent on Oil Spill

By on 6.28.10 | 1:03PM

Winston Groom (a great historian and great former journalist who is best known as the author of Forrest Gump) has an absolutely essential piece in today's Weekly Standard about the stunningly utrageous level of bureaucratic interference in efforts to contain the Gulf oil spill. We at the Washington Times today add other important details. For example,

Radio Netherlands, for example, reported on May 4 that the Environmental Protection Agency's water discharge rules appear to have played a role in prompting federal agencies to turn down international offers of assistance, including oil skimming equipment from the Netherlands. The massive Dutch ships are specifically designed to deal with oil spills by taking in the contaminated seawater, separating out a large amount of oil and then dumping the remaining water overboard. "But the water does contain some oil residue, and that is too much according to U.S. environment regulations," Radio Netherlands explained. These ships sat idle for six weeks because bureaucratic rules could not distinguish an effort that would have sucked 5,000 tons of oil per day out of the Gulf from the actions of someone deliberately pumping oil into the water.

From Groom's piece comes this info:

Each morning seems to bring a new fool’s errand. On June 18, for example, the U.S. Coast Guard apprehended a dozen oil-skimming barges in the midst of performing their duty, and shut down their operations for the rest of the day in order to determine if they were carrying the proper number of life preservers and fire extinguishers. If the Coast Guard was so worried about safety, why not simply take a big pile of life preservers and fire extinguishers out to these craft and hand them around, so that the skimmers could keep at their essential job? But that is not the way government operates. At least not this government, which has created a perfect storm of bureaucratic and regulatory gridlock around the Deep-water Horizon disaster. Whatever is done to prevent the oil from coming ashore must be approved by the EPA, OSHA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, and a host of lesser bureaucracies. Just a few days ago, a large slick of oil several hundred acres in size was allowed to enter Mobile Bay and hover in the lee of Gaillard Island, one of the largest Brown Pelican rookeries in the United States. According to a spokesman for BP, “None of the 135 boats working out of Dog River, or the 54 boats working out of Fairhope, had the training to handle the oil.” It seems oil skimming or booming requires taking courses and passing tests given by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. -Otherwise you run the risk of being arrested. Same goes for trying to save oiled birds or other wildlife. Federal permits—which can take up to three years to process—are required, and violators are subject to arrest, fines, and jail.

This isn't a partisan hit on the Obamites. I bow to no one in my anger at the Bush administration for how it mishandled Katrina both short-term and long. But in the case of the Bush administration, local and state officials (with the exceptions of then-Rep. Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Gov. Bob Riley in Alabama) were incompetents who made the Bush administration's job much harder by getting in the administration's way, while the administration did at least, via the Coast Guard and Fish and Wildlife Service, rescue about 35,000 people. In this case of the oil spill, all the state and local officials (again with now-Gov. Jindal and Gov. Riley leading the way) have performed absolutely admirably, but the Obama administration is getting in their way (rather than vice-versa) and the new Obamatized Coast Guard being as much a font of harmful red tape as it is much of a help to anyone. In short, bad as the Bush response to Katrina has been, Obama's response to the oil spill has been far, far worse -- to the degree where it is, in moral terms, almost criminally negligent.

This disaster was all BP's fault, and in the long run BP should pay and pay and pay and pay and pay for its numerous violations of basic safety and response rules and practices. But the EFFECT of the disaster on the coasts and in the wetlands, and in the whole Gulf eco-system, could have been so greatly lessened if the administration were competent and caring that the blame for long-term damage must read in the Oval Office, in the person of that cold, detached Alinskyite who sees in this spill nothing more than yet another opportunity to stop other offshore drilling and push cap and trade. The word for his response, in every sense of the word, is "rotten."

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