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Day 38 Top Underkill

If the disasters themselves are not preventable, sometimes the way we handle the aftermath is.” – Adele Barker in Disaster“s Aftermath

President Obama just got done meeting the press. Other than his showing genuine concern about the disaster and verbally owning it, color me unimpressed. See, I don’t want Obama to take responsibility for things that are not his fault like the rig explosion, subsequent leak of 12,000+ barrels per day (multiplied by 38 days) into the Gulf of Mexico and onto priceless coastal real estate or even the state of the MMS and US drilling regulations until April 20th, 2010 (admit it, the man had quite a bit on his plate already until that day). As The Gambit asked, “What is the consequence of being responsible?”


As in the case of the flood of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, a botched recovery is always worse than the disaster itself. This is precisely where Obama can make a difference and has to accept responsibility. The EPA, MMS and FEMA are weak and, as much as I respect the Coast Guard for their historic record of awesome response to various American maritime disasters, they aren’t actually doing much in this case. Decisions may have been made based on “the best science we’ve got,” as Obama said during the presser, but I am afraid the best logistics were not employed.

Case in point: Admiral Allen Approves One Section of Louisiana Barrier Island Project Proposal as Part of Federal Oil Spill Response

The Army Corps of Engineers has granted partial approval for Louisiana’s barrier island project proposal, covering approximately half of the state’s original request and including six sections.

Under this permit, but without coordination with Admiral Allen and the Unified Command, Louisiana is authorized to construct the barrier islands at its own expense, so long as construction meets the terms and conditions established by the Army Corps of Engineers and any other required permits are obtained. If Louisiana moves forward, they will need to address all potential costs and environmental impacts.

Admiral Allen“s recommendation would integrate a section of the project with the federal oil spill response”and therefore potential funding by BP, as a responsible party, or the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

Wow, how generous. All this after yesterday “[Governor Jindal] repeated his call to get federal permission to dredge sand and create barrier islands to protect inland estuaries. The Army Corps of Engineers is fast-tracking the application but must allow other agencies to comment, according to federal environmental law.”

Why do we have to stand in line at the DMV, fill out TPS reports and file them in triplicate to protect our coastline during a national emergency? This is exactly where Obama comes in and can help. This is what we must demand. Instead of asking BP to step aside and have government take over (and do what exactly other than having put another company in charge of executing Top Kill three weeks ago?), we ought to be asking government to remove red tape around the dredging. The government argues it is assessing the environmental impact of dredging. Let me think: dredging plan’s environmental impact versus impact of crude oil entering estuaries and marshes. Yup, they’re right: we shouldn’t dredge. *facepalm*

An executive order could supersede all this crap.

But no, we get a presser in which Obama defends his drilling stance and says “That’s why you never heard me say Drill Baby Drill.” Who cares?

Oil in water. Courtesy SkyTruth

Wait, there’s more:

Allen said he has approved the use of dredges “where work could be completed the fastest” as part of the federal response to the oil spill. But for a larger portion approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana will be responsible for its own costs and environmental impact, Allen announced.

Ok, who put the oil in the water so that it would float ashore? And who just took responsibility for it (see beginning of post)? So, why is Louisiana responsible for “its own costs and environmental impact?” Executive order #2 – send the bill for every last dime of cleanup to BP.

MMS chief resigned/fired. Big deal. As D says, “This is the excuse needed to gut and redefine the entire MMS. No one can say a thing about it.” Executive order #3 – throw out bad apples and reorganize the MMS yesterday.

And what do we have an EPA for if it hasn’t previously assessed the environmental impact of a rig catching fire, falling over, sinking into the ocean with the riser still attached and connected to a failed blowout preventer? (Incidentally, we left that one to BP also and they came up with the impact of a spill on creatures that don’t live in the Gulf of Mexico.) Executive order #4 – Strengthen the EPA by hiring environmental scientists, well/drilling engineers and emergency logisticians independent of the MMS. If we’re going to take it seriously in disaster management and mitigation, the government has a lot of studying to do and a Pat Campbell or three of its own who can really take control of a situation as large as this. If the government “does not possess superior technology to BP,” it’s time it did or put itself in a position to get the right private-sector people and technology in place quickly.

What’s the latest word on Top Kill?

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