Why Is The Jones Act In The Way Of Oil Spill Recovery?

Today in an interview on fox News Channel, U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen stated that one of the reasons that foreign vessels that can provide additional skimmers to gather the leaked oil from the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and impacting the Gulf States so dramatically, is the fact that the Jones Act prohibits foreign vessels.

The Jones Act specifically prohibits foreign vessels from sailing from one U.S. port to another. The purpose is to protect U.S. flagged vessels from competition by foreign flagged vessels. The argument to be made about this law’s interference with free enterprise is for another day.

Admiral Allen indicated that waivers can be authorized but only for one ship at a time and only through very cumbersome bureaucratic system. This is simply unacceptable.

What is at stake here is the dramatic disaster occurring in the gulf states and the loss of wetlands, the income from the tourist industry and the loss of fishing resources to American businesses and their employees.

This law was never intended to block resources available from foreign countries in a disaster scenario such as we are facing now.

For the Obama administration to not execute an immediate executive order waiving this act is most irresponsible. At this point it is imperative that an appointment be made by President Obama that puts one person in charge representing the president. The governors of each affected state must be able to communicate with this individual instantly on a 24 hour basis and through this individual have access to the president.

Any and all equipment and ships must be made available to the states and BP in order to deal with this emergency. If BP is uncooperative in any fashion, then and only then should the U.S. government take complete charge of the cleanup effort. BP must answer to the U.S. via the individual placed in charge on behalf of the president.

As a second priority, an investigation needs to be made as to the actual cause of the accident in order to first of all find ways to prohibit any such event in the future. The last thing that needs to be done is to determine the ultimate responsibility on whether the cause was negligence or “an act of God.” Accidents happen and without question the financial responsibility is BP’s. However, demonizing the company and thereby causing irrational financial decisions of the stockholders is unwise – though in the administration’s view, politically profitable. BP is still a very profitable company and can remain so despite their financial liability.

For the President or members of Congress and the Cabinet to threaten and demonize the company can only result in further diminishing BP’s financial condition and ultimately leading to its bankruptcy. And if that happens, the U.S. taxpayer will be on the hook as always.

The priorities are; clean up payment of all liabilities, find the cause, assign ultimate responsibility.

It’s not really that hard – if the administration’s focus were on solving problems, not how to spin it all in a political sense.

Fred Speckmann



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