The deep-water oil well blowout in the Gulf is a tragedy that continues to unfold. Hopefully, efforts underway to cap the well will succeed soon. But even if that occurs, the finger-pointing will carry on far into the future, and the economic and ecological fallout will continue to unfold.
What Louisiana does not need at this juncture is more talk about who did and didn’t do what.
Louisiana needs action.
Weeks ago, Governor Jindal called for the immediate restoration of the sand-spit barrier islands that ring our coast in the areas now being affected by the encroaching crude oil. That urgent request languished in the federal environmental bureaucracy.
Last Thursday at his press conference, President Obama announced that the go-ahead had been given to build up a small portion of the barrier island chain. That belated response amounts to too little coming too late. The restoration of the barrier island ring would have been a critical tool to keep oil out of our marshes. What was the bureaucracy worried about—disadvantaging some minnows with short-term water turbidity while our invaluable marshlands take it on the chin? Go figure.
The President said in his press conference that he bears the responsibility for solving the problem. No one expects—and no one should certainly want—for him to be in charge of plugging the hole at the bottom of the Gulf. The federal government is no more capable of plugging that hole than it appears to be of plugging the gaping hole in the federal budget. Where the federal government should be engaged is in limiting the on-going economic and ecological damage emanating from the disaster.
The Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Interior, and other elements of our burgeoning federal bureaucracy should have sprung into action immediately to lead the effort to contain the spill as quickly as possible. It is quite apparent at this juncture that they have failed miserably in that assignment. It is also readily apparent that they had no viable plan to address a disaster of this scale.
Even more troubling is the potential impact government actions might have on jobs and the economy in Louisiana. The President announced in his press conference that he was putting a halt to all deep-water drilling activities for the rest of this year. Unfortunately, he obviously does not understand that drilling companies have contracts for drilling rigs that cannot simply be abrogated. Some of these contracts call for payments in excess of $500,000 per day. Since Obama is the one who is telling them to shut down their operations, they can’t give their bills to BP to pay. And what about the thousands of well-paid workers on those rigs? Who is going to pay for their mortgages, car notes, and groceries when they come back to shore unemployed?
It isn’t BP’s edict that is putting them out of work.
The last thing Louisiana needs right now is to have its crucial offshore oil and gas industry on ice along with much of its commercial seafood industry for an extended period of time.
It looks like, once again, our federal government is moving from not having viable plans in place to respond to a major disaster and then enacting knee-jerk policies that will do even more harm moving forward. There are indeed troubled waters surrounding us, but, unfortunately, some of them are coming from the Potomac, not the Gulf of Mexico.
Dan Juneau is the President of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.