American Elephants

Making the Catastrophe Worse, Step by Step! by The Elephant's Child

Seventy Days in:

The National Incident Command and the Federal On Scene Coordinator have determined that there is a resource need for boom and skimmers that can be met by offers of assistance from foreign governments and international bodies.

The United States will accept 22 offers of assistance from 12 countries and international bodies, including two high-speed skimmers and fire containment boom from Japan. We are currently working out the particular modalities of delivering the offered assistance. Further details will be forthcoming once these arrangements are complete…

Three days after the BP Deepwater Horizon Rig blew up on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill — one much larger than the spill that was then under way. The chairman of Spill Response Group Holland said that each Dutch ship had more cleanup capacity than all the ships the U.S. was then employing in the Gulf to combat the spill.

To protect against the possibility that the equipment wouldn’t capture all of the oil gushing from the well, the Dutch also offered to help the U.S. with a contingency plan to protect Louisiana’s marshlands with sand barriers.  A Dutch research institute specializing deltas, coastal areas and rivers developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile long sand dikes within three weeks.

Why didn’t it happen? First of all there’s the Jones Act (the Merchant Marine Act of 1920) intended to protect maritime unions, which precludes a foreign flagged ship from operating near the U.S. Coast.  In the case of Katrina, the Jones Act was waived by the Bush Administration within 3 Days. That’s not all, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules.  The Dutch ships can suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water.  That is not good enough for U.S. regulators.  Better to have no oil soaked up than return water that has more than 15 parts per million of oil to the Gulf of Mexico.  Water that is not 99.9985%pure is just not good enough.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 requires regions to have minimum levels of equipment such as booms and skimmers.

Admiral Allen, the incident commander, said that there are “discussions we’re having across the entire country where we have equipment that’s out there as a requirement — legal requirement to cover spill response of those areas — and how we might free those up.  That’s a work in progress inside the administration right now. ”

The head of French oil spill response company. Ecoceane, said the Jones Act and other difficulties getting through to BP prevented his company from putting boats to work sooner.  He has boats to work offshore, but also smaller models to work in shallower inland waters.  In the end, he sold nine spill response boats to a Florida company last week.  That makes them American boats and gets around Jones Act problems.

The spill is tangled in a web of red-tape, with way too many officials in charge of conflicting regulations, conflicting power, conflicting responsibility.  Allen may be the incident commander, but apparently he does not have any overriding authority, so everything winds up in endless debates and discussions.  A textbook case of how to bungle a crisis.  One of the first things they did was to send down a bunch of lawyers.

AT-AT DAY AFTERNOON by The Elephant's Child
June 29, 2010, 9:31 am
Filed under: Art, Entertainment, Fun n Games | Tags: , ,

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