Gulf Oil Spill Updates, Thread #6

7-9-10, 1:30 p.m. – National Review columnist and New Orleans/Louisiana enthusiast Deroy Murdock, who was in the Crescent City for Jazz Fest when the Deepwater Horizon well had blown up just days earlier (we got to meet him at a Pelican Institute get-together that weekend), has come out and said something we’ve hinted at for a good while – namely, that it’s time for state and local officials to tell President Obama and his merry band of clowns to pound sand…

Team Obama, the Washington bureaucracy, and their field agents pose a clear and present danger to the Gulf Coast’s entire population, both humans and wildlife. With tar balls as big as ping-pong balls now soiling Galveston, Texas — making this a five-state crisis — the region’s mayors and governors should respond to this emergency by openly defying federal officials who demand inaction while pelicans gag on oil and oysters drown in BP sauce.

Jefferson Parish should deploy those rocks. Louisiana should shift that sand into place. If Washington keeps restricting prospectively helpful foreign ships, as it still is doing, Gulf Coast governors should invite them to sail into position to protect their states’ shores.

And if the feds want to prevent these American citizens from saving people, property, and wildlife from 60,000 barrels of fresh petroleum daily, let Team Obama go down there and physically stop them.

Murdock does a very nice job of cataloguing the myriad examples of incompetence and obstinance of the feds with respect to the spill. His piece is well worth a read.

7-8-10, 10:30 p.m. – Kevin Costner is back, as today he had a press conference down at Port Fourchon to show off the Ella G., a Chouest Marine vessel outfitted with four of his large centrifuge machines reportedly capable of decanting some 20,000 barrels of oil per day, and also reportedly capable of operating in 10-foot seas.

ABC-26 TV in New Orleans has the video:

 

7-8-10, 10:45 a.m. – If you’re looking for some perspective on all this, Steve Maley’s Redstate piece from yesterday really deserves a look. He notes that what happened on the Deepwater Horizon is a Black Swan event:

Rolling boxcars — double sixes — with a fair pair of dice is roughly a “two sigma” event; it happens one throw in 36, or about 2.8% of the time.

Rolling six boxcars in a row, then, is a highly improbable event (about once every 2 billion tries) — unless you’re playing with loaded dice, or unless the outcome of each roll is not totally independent of the other rolls.

Back to BP: they appear to have made a series of operational choices on the Macondo well that involved some acknowledged element of risk. They ran a “long string” instead of a liner; they didn’t get all the gas out of their mud returns; they didn’t centralize the pipe per Halliburton’s recommendation, etc., etc.

The details of the engineering aren’t important. They were probably correct in thinking that they could “probably get away with” each step, and that the likelihood of catastrophic failure of all the systems was very, very remote.

But they fooled themselves, because they weren’t playing a game of dice, they were playing dominoes. Gas in the mud led to a failure in the cement which cascaded into a failure of the pipe which cascaded into an inoperable blowout preventer and a lower marine riser package that didn’t work as designed.

That chain of events put a combustible gas bubble at the surface, which caused the explosion and fire.

Maley also notes that BP’s minority partner in the Macondo well, Anadarko Petroleum, is a good bit disgruntled by the company’s practices prior to the disaster on a well they held a 25 percent stake in:

“The mounting evidence clearly demonstrates that this tragedy was preventable and the direct result of BP’s reckless decisions and actions. Frankly, we are shocked by the publicly available information that has been disclosed in recent investigations and during this week’s testimony that, among other things, indicates BP operated unsafely and failed to monitor and react to several critical warning signs during the drilling of the Macondo well. BP’s behavior and actions likely represent gross negligence or willful misconduct and thus affect the obligations of the parties under the operating agreement,” continued [CEO James] Hackett.

Under the terms of the joint operating agreement (JOA) related to the Mississippi Canyon block 252 lease, BP, as operator, owed duties to its co-owners including Anadarko to perform the drilling of the well in a good and workmanlike manner and to comply with all applicable laws and regulations. The JOA also provides that BP is responsible to its co-owners for damages caused by its gross negligence or willful misconduct. …

7-7-10, 12:45 p.m. – There’s an article in the New York Times today which addresses this business of the feds blocking all the state and local plans to keep oil out of Louisiana’s marshes. It’s a rather friendly piece toward the Corps of Engineers and the Obama administration (go figure), in that it justifies the chorus of “no” the feds repeat time and time again when ideas are floated like the rock jetties in Jefferson Parish or sand dredging in the Chandeleurs and elsewhere.

Basically, the piece says, the administration is listening to the scientist community in rejecting these plans.

That might sound like smart policy. After all, the scientists ought to know what to do more than anybody else, right?

Maybe not.

It was these experts, along with their scientific peers in federal agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, who offered the strongest opposition to the proposed rock barrier. Many of those critiques were included in supporting documents released by the Army Corps of Engineers before the official ruling was announced.

The scientists explained to the corps how narrowing the inlets with rock would set the stage for the breaching of existing barrier islands during the region’s frequent storms. They warned that damage to these islands — which have buffered the impact of major storms like Hurricane Katrina — would prove difficult to repair, perhaps impossible, and would most likely outstrip any benefit to the wetlands gained by stopping the oil with the rock barriers.

Having raised their voices in objection, these coastal experts now bristle at the accusation that they are out-of-touch academics or pencil-pushing bureaucrats, as state and local officials have charged.

“It’s really offensive, I think, and not fair, to call the scientific community bureaucrats,” said Dr. Ioannis Y. Georgiu, a professor of marine engineering at the University of New Orleans. “We are being demonized.”

Yet by siding with federal agencies blamed from the beginning of the spill for a slow-footed and chaotic response — and for which resentment still lingers over the failings of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina — these coastal scientists have made themselves easy targets for leaders eager to portray themselves as stopping at nothing in the fight against the oil. For these politicians, swifter action is crucial.

“You don’t wait weeks and weeks for studies and federal permits in the middle of a war,” Mr. Jindal, a Republican, said in a speech on July 2. “You do what you need to do as quickly as possible to protect your land and your people.”

The local scientists argue that quick-fix solutions are being sold to the public with little firm evidence that they will succeed, and with potentially dire side effects being minimized and ignored. A lack of engagement of the scientific community has also bred frustration. On the rock barrier plan, for instance, coastal experts were consulted only after a local engineering firm had drafted the permit application and orders had been placed for thousands of tons of rock to dump in the inlets.

“We’ve got such a coastal brain trust here, and they’re being left out in the cold,” said Dr. Len Bahr, a coastal scientist and former director of the Louisiana Office of Coastal Activities. “To me that’s just unconscionable.”

Some coastal experts concede that the scientific community has been more reactive than proactive regarding the spill, and has often waited to be consulted on solutions rather than offering up its own innovative ideas to keep oil off the coast, a criticism that local officials have echoed.

“We want to prevent the damage — we don’t want to clean it up,” Mr. Bonano, the emergency-preparedness director, said. “That’s the big difference between us and them.”

Certainly some of the coastal science group’s concerns are valid. As some of the stupid Corps of Engineers projects in the past have proven, you can throw things out of balance with a major engineering project. There are always unintended consequences to a major action of any kind. And with any of the plans Jindal and the locals are pushing, there will be tradeoffs. We get that.

The problem is, as the article notes without particularly pressing the point home, none of the scientists screaming about rock jetties, sand berms, freshwater diversion or the other ideas the locals want to pursue have any plans of their own. If all you do is criticize somebody else’s ideas, you’re not particularly useful in the midst of an emergency. After all, rock jetties and sand berms aren’t ideological. If they work, eveybody should support them. If they don’t, everybody should support something else that will. But the coastal scientists have neither presented alternate ideas nor gotten on board with the ones being pushed in an effort to tweak them. Maybe there would be less frustration and less stridency on the part of local officials like Bonano if he and others would hear something like “OK, if you want to do that you need to keep in mind that X can happen, and we suggest you also do A and B to try to mitigate the possibility of X.” Or “Look, a really good idea if you’re going to do this would be to do it this way. It’ll be more effective and less damaging in the long run.” And so on.

If that has been happening, it hasn’t shown up in the Times piece. It also hasn’t shown up in the Times-Picayune or Advocate’s coverage, either. What has shown up is a bunch of academic types basically saying the state and local people are meatheads and pooping on everything they come up with. Fair or not, it comes off a whole lot like the behavior of environmentalist freaks who attempt to stand in the way of virtually every bit of human activity anyone can dream up – and when those folks are successful, they almost always force a perverted, nonsensical solution which costs too much, doesn’t work like it should and ends up being a bigger environmental threat than the action they tried to stop in the first place.

This is not to say all the coastal scientists at LSU and UNO and Tulane are tree-hugging loons. We have no idea whether they are or not. But it sure seems like they’re not part of the solution, and when the final story on this spill is written it’s quite possible the best that can be said about their opposition is that they kept a number of solutions from being implemented – some of which would have prevented damage to our ecology and economy.

7-6-10, 5:30 p.m. – This evening we have a double-shot of incompetence from our two lead actors in this fiasco.

First, we have the federal government, which if you haven’t heard has now rejected the construction of rock jetties in Jefferson Parish – a plan put forth to the Army Corps of Engineers all the way back on June 7. Originally, the rock jetty plan called for blocking five passes into Barataria Bay, and it was then narrowed down to only two passes. But even that didn’t pass muster, since the Corps of Engineers declared that it would speed water flow through narrower openings in the barrier islands from the Gulf into the bay, and that would make it more likely oil would get in.

The Corps also said that the jetties would encourage scouring, and thus increase coastal erosion.

BP, to its credit, had actually bought the rocks for the plan. Now it’s stuck with a bunch of rocks. They’re just sitting there in a couple dozen barges along the Harvey Canal; they’ve been there for two weeks, and it’s costing $4,000 a day to store them in that spot.

Maybe BP can pay victims of the Obamoratorium in rocks. Or tarballs.

Jefferson Parish officials say they’re going to sue the Corps of Engineers.

“It’s to save the doggone estuary,” said Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner.

Kerner said the rocks are badly needed and could serve more than one purpose.

“It will also not only stop oil, but (saves) millions in money on restoration projects. This stops coastal erosion,” Kerner said.

Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts agrees. And for help, he’s already talking to the state’s attorney general.

“We are regrouping. Legal action may come,” Roberts said. “We have to weigh our options against the Corps.”

The Corps said it reviewed the rock barrier plan carefully, but two weeks later ruled that it may do more harm than good by directing water to other areas and possibly damaging other passes and marshland.

“I’m spending more time working through federal jams and more time fighting that and not oil and there is no excuse for that,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise.

And so the rocks continue to sit, at the cost of about $4,000 a day.

“Come up with a plan,” Kerner said. “We’re all ears. The only plan we think will work is rocks in the passes.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Bobby Jindal took another opportunity to blast away at the feds – a valid exercise, for certain, but one which is becoming more and more a futile gesture.

“On Saturday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected the rock plan to protect the Barataria Bay at Grand Isle after weeks of meetings and phone calls and even our talking to the President about it a month ago when we were told we would get a call about the plan within hours.

“No one can convince us that rocks in the water are more dangerous than oil. That is absolutely ridiculous. The only people who believe that are the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. who can’t see the oil, smell the oil or touch the oil.

“No is not an answer. No is not a plan. No is not acceptable. Time and time again we have battled with them to get out plans approved. We are resubmitting this rock plan and we are asking BP to put funds in escrow in the event the rocks need to be removed. We have said all along that we are willing to make the rocks temporary or otherwise modify the plan to address any concerns – for example, we modified the barges by reducing the plan from five passes to two passes – but we continue to run into red tape at the federal level.

“We need the federal government to get in this war to win it. They continue to reject our plans while they put forward no plan of their own. This is not acceptable. They need to either lead, follow or get out of the way.”

“Every time one of our requested defense measures was not provided, we came up with an alternative – just to have these alternatives get shot down. What we are left with then is often a void of any action to protect our coast at all. The choice we have in this battle is not between our plan to protect this area and some other perfect plan, which is non-existent. The choice we have is fundamentally between fighting this oil out at sea or in the passes or having it come in and attack our marsh. Those are our only choices. Let there be no doubt that we will fight for every plan and alternative to having this oil kill our marshes, our fisheries and the very livelihood of our people.

“The reality is that sand berms and gap closures with rocks/barges will help protect our coast 24 hours a day in rain or shine. We need the federal government to recognize the vulnerability that continues to exist and to work with us rather than obstruct us from protecting our citizens. Instead, the federal government continues to lack the common sense and urgency that this disaster demands; and every time they reject one of our ideas they chose the path of inaction and more of our marshland is attacked by oil.”

Great quote. The response?

Of course, while BP promptly bought rocks, they were a little slower with something which might have done a great deal more good – as in getting an oil collection vessel to the spill site before Grand Isle’s beaches had to start resembling a cross between Treme and Cool Hand Luke. It seems that the Helix Producer was available in late April to assist in collection duties, but BP sat on their asses and ignored the offer until June.

Helix, the Houston-based owner of floating oil platforms and subsea wells, offered its Helix Producer I vessel in late April to help BP collect oil that has been gushing from the Macondo well since an April 20 rig explosion that killed 11 workers, Chief Executive Officer Owen Kratz said today in an interview. BP initially declined the offer, he said.

BP notified Helix June 10 that it wanted to lease the Helix Producer I platform to augment two other vessels that are receiving oil from the Macondo well, Kratz said. The delay meant Helix had to construct a collection tube from spare parts that will be plugged into a pipe just one-sixth the diameter of the main opening atop the well, he said.

“The ad-hoc way this has been reacted to has reduced the amount of oil captured,” Kratz said by telephone from Houston. “The connection to the vessel itself is jury-rigged because we’ve only had since June 10 to put it together.”

The Helix Producer is on the scene now, and BP is bragging that it’s going to allow them to capture 53,000 barrels of oil once it gets going. Except the seas are too high to do anything, so it’s just sitting there waiting for better weather. Nice work.

Nothing new on the A-Whale, either, because of the high seas. But BP says its first relief well is just 400 feet from the bottom of the Macondo well, which represents progress that has them a week ahead of schedule.

And Tony Hayward got to go to Azerbaijan. No word on the yacht races there.

7-5-10, 2:00 p.m. – Uh-oh. This ain’t good.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries today closed Lake Catherine and Borne for fishing and Lake Pontchartrain east of the Highway 11 Bridge. Also closed is the Rigolets Pass.

At the Rigolet Marina, recreational fishermen returned from fishing trips this morning with samples of sticky tar balls they collected while on the water. They say they found the tar balls by the CSX Railroad bridge through the Rigolets. Last night, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation confirmed oil had moved west of CSX bridge.

It’s not really a surprise, since oil has hit shore virtually everywhere else in the spill’s strike zone. But it’s something of a head-scratcher as to why a $3 billion effort to fight the oil spill couldn’t keep the oil coming in through a narrow pass like the Rigolets.

Great fishing areas before the spill, and who knows when they’ll be great again.

7-5-10, 11:30 a.m. – BP now says the costs of dealing with the Gulf oil spill have now hit $3 billion, though it’s more like $23 billion when you add in the Obama shakedown.

One wonders how much of that money could be considered well spent. After all, it’s not as if they’ve stopped the leak at the source. Nor have they kept oil from hitting beaches or spreading to the Florida Keys or destroying entire industries. And it’s not as though BP has come up with any new technologies which are proven effective – or that the federal government has allowed to be brought to bear on this disaster.

That includes the A-Whale, which is dealing with an inconclusive verdict to “testing” the EPA imposed over the weekend. Choppy seas are blamed for the uncertain result, though it hasn’t been published what exactly is being tested. If it’s the EPA standard of 15 parts per million of oil being decanted, the guess here is the A-Whale won’t pass that test because no skimmer could.

One decent piece of news comes from Mobile, where they’ve come up with a way to skim that gunky, emulsified crude that washes up on shore as tarballs…

Just weeks after the first Heavy Oil Recovery Device (HORD) was successfully tested in the Gulf of Mexico off the shores of Alabama, the innovative devices are greatly improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the cleanup operation. The HORD, originally dubbed Tarball Retrieval Device, is being manufactured at the rate of 8-10 units per day in shipyards in Pensacola, Fla., and Bayou La Batre, Ala. Up to 1,000 units are expected to be manufactured and put into service in the coming weeks.

The HORD has proven to be especially effective in collecting the thick, heavy oil that hampers traditional skimming methods. It is also able to cleanup the extremely light and difficult to remove sheen left on the water surface after skimming.

The brainchild of Capt. Gerry Matherne, the HORD exemplifies the adage “necessity is the mother of invention.” Matherne, a supertanker captain and second generation seaman, who is under contract with BP, realized early on that something different was needed to quickly and effectively deal with the sticky, orange globs of oil (known as tarballs) floating just under the water’s surface.

“Standard skimming methods work best on fresh oil on the water’s surface. A lot of the oil we’re dealing with on the Gulf has degraded, changing from a liquid state to a peanut butter-like consistency that floats on the surface and 12 to 18 inches below the surface,” said Matherne. “The HORD reflects creative thinking, a willingness to try new things and a can-do attitude by everyone involved with the clean-up.”

Matherne’s invention is essentially a single unit that acts as a filter, containment and disposal system rolled into one. A mesh bag held open by a 3-foot by 3-foot aluminum frame is dragged through the water by shrimp boats put into service as skimmers. The cage-like device scoops up surface oil and sheen, as well as the thick oil lurking beneath the surface of the water.

When the bags reach their two-ton capacity, they are switched out for empty ones, loaded onto smaller boats and transported to approved oil disposal units. The bags are later decontaminated and reused.

The total downtime for skimmers outfitted with HORDs is measured in minutes, compared to hours or days for a traditional skimmer that has to transport the captured oil to disposal units and wait to be unloaded, before returning to sea.

In addition to saving precious time, the HORD’s simple design greatly improves a boat’s maneuverability and ability to safely perform at faster speeds and in higher seas.

7-3-10, 1:45 p.m. – Former Congressman Ernest Istook, now a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has a column at the Daily Caller on the “A-Whale” that is worth reading for a number of reasons. It points out that free enterprise, risk-taking and the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well – but unfortunately it appears it’s made in Taiwan these days…

[Nobu] Su [of Taiwan, CEO of TMT Corporation] met with Coast Guard officials Thursday in New Orleans to outline this weekend’s trial run of the A Whale, the huge tanker/oil skimmer which Su has brought to America. He says the ship is the long-needed “big answer to a big problem.”

Although he was dismissed when he originally shared his concept with BP and U.S. officials after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Su forged ahead and spent millions to add intake valves on the bow of the 1,115-foot, 10-story tall ship. These allow it to gather 500,000 barrels daily of spilled oil and water—250 times the capacity of the other ships now engaged in the cleanup.

In a face-to-face meeting in Washington, DC, Su told me he still does not know how many millions he spent to sail the ship from near Shanghai to a Portugal shipyard, there to have its unique oil-skimming system installed, and then dispatch the ship to the U.S. He says he made the decision to act about May 1st and the ship arrived in the U.S. by June 25—a timetable that U.S. officials had considered impossible to achieve.

Su believes so firmly in its potential that he already has retrofitting underway in Portugal on the B Whale, a sister ship that he says could arrive in the Gulf of Mexico by mid-July. And the C Whale not too long afterwards.

Despite the original rebuffs from BP and federal bureaucrats, Su charged ahead. Rather than waiting to be invited to help in the Gulf, he wrangled an invitation from Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell to make port in Norfolk for a media event. Once it was on the scene, it became impossible for the Coast Guard and other federal officials, plus BP, to overlook the Whale. And McDonnell’s avid support was a big help.

In essence, the A Whale had crashed the cleanup party, rather than waiting for an invitation.

The thing is, the A-Whale is still being held to that asinine 15 parts per million EPA standard even now. It’s in the Mississippi River doing EPA testing, and if it doesn’t manage to beat 15 parts per million, the feds could tell Su thanks, but no thanks.

The MMS standard for water discharge, according to a friend who handles water purification for offshore rigs as they discharge waste water, is 29 parts per million – and that standard is almost never met because it’s virtually impossible to meet. Half that number, for a skimmer engaged in taking oil out of water amid a spill of this magnitude, is, in his words, “F-ing laughable.”

If the EPA ends up rejecting the A-Whale because of the 15 parts per million standard, the reaction in Louisiana and elsewhere on the Gulf Coast is going to be something to see.

7-1-10, 5:45 p.m. – Feel free to download the Issa report on the Gulf spill cleanup in PDF format here.

It’s a very big deal. We’re still going through it, and it’s already made us very, very angry.

7-1-10, 3:15 p.m. – So Issa’s report comes out, and it’s getting some play in the media. As a result, the White House press corps asks Robert Gibbs, chief press flack in the Obama administration, about it. A couple of times, as we reported below, it does refer to Plaquemines Parish as “Placquemines.”

Gibbs, naturally, denies any fault on the administration’s part, and in doing so he offers this productive bit of analysis

“I would say one thing to congressman Issa: Plaquemines is spelled P-l-a-q-u-e-m-i-n-e-s,” Gibbs said.

Yes, it’s OK to hate Robert Gibbs. He’s quite hatable. And the smartass attitude he drags out in front of the White House press corps on a daily basis makes him a perfect mascot for the Obama gang. Unserious, petty, passive-aggressive and craven.

The adult in the gang running the spill response is purportedly Thad Allen, who was in Washington in a suit today answering questions about the response. Unfortunately Allen didn’t inspire any more confidence than Gibbs did today.

Issa said the report shows “a clear pattern … of efforts to control and manipulate information about the oil spill and response efforts” by the Obama administration.

Incident Commander Allen contested the findings.

“Every indication I have is that the numbers that are coming up are the numbers that are there. You can always find a place where there’s … a piece of water with no skimmer down there. It’s just that big of an area,” Allen told reporters at the White House.

Allen also said that the sudden opening of the floodgates to allow foreign help with the spill isn’t so sudden after all.

“Four to six weeks ago we saw the … shifting landscape from booming requirements to skimming requirements. We talked to State Department. They sent a cable out – I believe it was around the 13th of June actually – soliciting input from the countries. A lot of that has come back now. We’re in the process where we can screen it, actually do letters of acceptance. And we’re moving on that right now,” Allen said.

“We have well over 100 offers. We’re going over them right now. Roughly about 40 of those have been accepted. And we’re reviewing all those right now,” he continued.

Isn’t this worse? It takes six weeks to evaluate whether you’ll let somebody help you?

Allen also addressed the situation with the “A-Whale,” and gave lots of excuses.

Allen gave more details on why the ‘A-Whale’ – a retro-fitted tanker vessel that is capable of scooping up 500,000 barrels of oily water a day – has not yet been cleared for operating in the Gulf.

He said the area around the sunken Deepwater Horizon oil well is “very congested” with 20 to 30 vessels, and that the ‘A-Whale’ would only be effective in or around that area.

“That’s when it comes up as a pretty good size slick. It becomes pretty disaggregated after that. So if you have a huge tanker capable of 21 million gallon capacity chasing down half a mile slicks, that’s probably a different kind of platform you want to use for it,” Allen said.

Combine this with the Obamoratorium, and it’s going to start getting pretty uncomfortable for the feds in Louisiana soon.

7-1-10, 9:45 a.m. – And now we’re finding out about the scale of the fraud being perpetrated on the public by the administration, which explains a good bit about Billy Nungesser’s anger. From a report by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) which will be issued in about 15 minutes on the oil spill response:

Phantom Assets

“The number of assets claimed [by the White House], however, does not appear to match what is actually in the field.This is corroborated by Placquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who shared a similar story with investigators. BP and Coast Guard provided Mr. Nungesser with a map of the Gulf allegedly pinpointing the exact locations of 140 skimmers cleaning up oil. Sensing that the chart may have been somewhat inaccurate, Mr. Nungesser requested a flyover of the assets for verification. After three cancelled trips, officials admitted to Mr. Nungesser that only 31 of the 140 skimmers were ever deployed. The rest were sitting at the docks. According to Mr. Nungesser, the chart appeared to have been fabricated.”

Obama’s ‘Command-and-Control’ An Illusion: Who’s In Charge?

“Parish officials maintain that the federal government has not been in control since day one. In four separate interviews, senior-ranking Parish officials described how, until the President’s visit on May 28, 2010, BP was in charge. According to one official, “until two weeks ago [after the President’s May 28, 2010, visit], BP was in charge and the Coast Guard looked to them for direction.” Furthermore, “Coast Guard asks BP,” not vice-versa. When specifically asked to agree or disagree with the assertion that the federal government had been in control since day one, another official firmly disagreed. Mr. Nungesser told staff that “today, I can’t tell you who is in control,” and invited committee investigators to visit the command center to see for themselves.”

Resources Used as Bargaining Chip to Mute Criticism

“In some instances, it appears that equipment is provided simply to quiet public criticism. Mr. Nungesser, who has frequently appeared on local and national television, was apparently visited by two White House officials at his office on Fathers’ Day. According to Mr. Nungesser, the purpose of their visit was to find a way to keep him from calling attention to the lack of equipment. Specifically, they asked him, “What do we have to do to keep you off tv?” He simply replied, “give me what I need.” On another occasion, Placquemines Parish officials requested 20 skimmers at a town hall meeting held by the Coast Guard. According to Mr. Nungesser, “They gave us two skimmers to shut us up.” These accounts raise serious questions about whether the Administration is more concerned with fighting a public relations battle than combating the oil spill.”

Federal Response Ties Hands of Local Assets

“LaFourche President Charlotte Randolph told committee staff that “we would have liked to have played offense. Would like to have made an effort to collect at the site instead of the shoreline.” This belief is echoed by a Jefferson Parish official who, within days of the explosion, warned BP and the Coast Guard that oil was rapidly approaching and requested that they deploy equipment to prevent it from reaching shore. The local official told committee investigators that, “they all said ‘don’t worry about it.” A St. Bernard Parish official, who described the situation as the “slowest and most ineffective response,” made an emotional plea to “give us the equipment.” There are approximately 700 fishermen in his Parish trained and ready to deploy boom as quickly as the Coast Guard can supply it. Despite multiple requests, however, the supplies are not flowing into the area. As he describes, “it’s like giving me a [gun] with no bullets; it’s just a paperweight.” Accounts such as these not only cast doubt upon the timeline’s credibility and the White House accounting of deployed assets, but also call into question the command-and-control structure producing these results.”

Disconnect Between Federal and Local Officials on Preparing for 2010 Hurricane Season

“In three separate interviews, senior-ranking officials described a critical need for executive leadership at the Federal level to address the unique challenges of the 2010 hurricane season and to speed up clean-up efforts by accepting foreign assistance. Based on these interviews, it appears that neither the President nor any members of his Administration have coordinated with local leaders to determine how the federal government should respond to the unique challenges of the 2010 hurricane season.

Foreign Assistance Available, but Under-Utilized

According to local officials, the decision to not waive the Jones Act has impaired Gulf Coast clean-up efforts. The most likely application of a broad-based Jones Act waiver would be for the operation of boats equipped with skimmers, which is one of the most effective tools to clean up the oil. Rear Admiral Jim Watson conceded in a briefing to Chairman Towns and Ranking Member Issa that the Coast Guard does not currently have access to a sufficient numbers of skimmers.

6-30-10, 2:00 p.m. – Monday, when we posted the top seven examples of poor federal performance with respect to the spill, we didn’t really expect to be breaking new ground.

And though we think it was a good piece, the Heritage Foundation has one just as good or better this morning saying much the same thing. Entitled “Obama’s Oil Spill To-Do List,” it’s a little broader than ours is, but it reiterates the unforced errors the Obama administration has made since this nightmare began.

Here’s a taste…

4. Release the S.S. A-Whale: The S.S. A-Whale skimmer is a converted oil tanker capable of cleaning 500,000 barrels of oil a day from the Gulf waters. Currently, the largest skimmer being used in the clean-up efforts can handle 4,000 barrels a day, and the entire fleet our government has authorized for BP has only gathered 600,000 barrels, total in the 70 days since the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The ship embarked from Norfolk, VA, this week toward the Gulf, hoping to get federal approval to begin assisting the clean-up, but is facing bureaucratic resistance.

As a foreign-flagged ship, the S.S. A-Whale needs a waiver from the Jones Act, but even outside that three-mile limitation, the U.S. Coast Guard and the EPA have to approve its operation due to the nature of its operation, which separates the oil from the water and then releases water back into the Gulf, with a minor amount of oil residue. The government should not place perfection over the need for speed, especially facing the threat of an active hurricane season. For more information on this, click here.

5. Remove State and Local Roadblocks: Local governments are not getting the assistance they need to help in the cleanup. For example, nearly two months ago, officials from Escambia County, Fla., requested permission from the Mobile Unified Command Center to use a sand skimmer, a device pulled behind a tractor that removes oil and tar from the top three feet of sand, to help clean up Pensacola’s beaches. County officials still haven’t heard anything back. Santa Rosa Island Authority Buck Lee explains why: “Escambia County sends a request to the Mobile, Ala., Unified Command Center. Then, it’s reviewed by BP, the federal government, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard. If they don’t like it, they don’t tell us anything.”

State and local governments know their geography, people, economic impacts and needs far better than the federal government does. Contrary to popular belief, the federal government has actually been playing a bigger and bigger role in running natural disaster responses. And as Heritage fellow Matt Mayer has documented, the results have gotten worse, not better. Local governments should be given the tools they need to aid in the disaster relief. For more information on this, click here.

6-30-10, 8:30 a.m. – It seems we’re now a reduced to a Republican talking point. This doesn’t bode well.

Yesterday, the President summoned a bunch of Senators to the White House to pitch his cap-and-trade plan and attempt to buffalo them into signing on. It doesn’t appear to have gone too well, at least with some of the folks in the room.

“When you’ve got that many members with that many different opinions, I think it’s fair to say that there was no consensus about what the path forward is,” Alaskan Republican Lisa Murkowski said about the meeting.

But the real concern for folks in Louisiana should be Obama’s exchange with Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander.

“The priority should be fixing the oil spill,” Alexander told the President, according to the source. “That’s what any meeting about energy should be about.”

But when Alexander tried to interject the BP leak into the meeting, the source said, the President told the senator, “That’s just your talking point.”

Retorted Alexander, “No, it’s my opinion.”

Once again we see another example of a president who puts politics over governance. Taking care of the oil spill is his job; it’s an environmental, economic and national security issue all rolled into one. Obama’s presidency is going to be defined by his response to this disaster, not by whether he can ruin the nation’s economy with cap-and-trade (though certainly that won’t bode well for him or us). And the oil spill isn’t a partisan issue, though it’s true that Republicans are more likely to criticize him on the response to the spill – Obama either does a good job with it or he doesn’t.

And yet when a Senator points this out to him, we get “that’s just your talking point.”

No, Mr. President, asking you to DO YOUR JOB is not a talking point. This is, at its heart, the same issue as the Arizona immigration controversy – it’s about a president who is more interested in solidifying his party’s power in Washington than earning that power through fulfilling the duties he took on when he was inaugurated.

There’s a word for a ruler like this.

6-29-10, 8:00 p.m. – If folks in Louisiana are disgusted by the federal response to the spill, and we chronicled seven reasons last night why they should be, the people on the Alabama coast are no happier.

Political guru and Fox News talking head Dick Morris was in Alabama last week, and returned home with a narrative that sounds strikingly familiar

According to state disaster relief officials, Alabama conceived a plan — early on — to erect huge booms offshore to shield the approximately 200 miles of the state’s coastline from oil. Rather than install the relatively light and shallow booms in use elsewhere, the state (with assistance from the Coast Guard) canvassed the world and located enough huge, heavy booms — some weighing tons and seven meters high — to guard their coast.

But…no sooner were the booms in place than the Coast Guard, perhaps under pressure from the public comments of James Carville, uprooted them and moved them to guard the Louisiana coastline instead.

So Alabama decided on a backup plan. It would buy snare booms to catch the oil as it began to wash up on the beaches.

But…the Fish and Wildlife Administration vetoed the plan, saying it would endanger sea turtles that nest on the beaches.

So Alabama — ever resourceful — decided to hire 400 workers to patrol the beaches in person, scooping up oil that had washed ashore.

But…OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) refused to allow them to work more than 20 minutes out of every hour and required an hourlong break after 40 minutes of work, so the cleanup proceeded at a very slow pace.

The short answer is that every agency — each with its own particular bureaucratic agenda — was able to veto each aspect of any plan to fight the spill, with the unintended consequence that nothing stopped the oil from destroying hundreds of miles of wetlands, habitats, beaches, fisheries and recreational facilities.

You know how this goes: Second verse, same as da first.

Here we are going broke as a country, we’re about to nosedive into the back half of a double-dip recession and our private sector is being choked to death. And exactly what are we getting out of all these federal agencies China’s our money is going to?

Aggravation.

Since the states (and the federal government, for that matter) have regulatory agencies which do everything that the Department of Energy, OSHA, the Department of the Interior and the EPA, maybe some enterprising Republican ought to stick his neck out a little, take a look at how these clowns have performed during the oil spill when we’re supposed to need them more than ever and demand they get chopped out of the federal budget altogether. Considering the EPA’s performance under the Obama administration, it’s almost impossible to explain why a single dime of our tax money should fund such an incompetent, out-to-lunch and destructive bureaucracy.

But that’s just us talking. What do we know?

6-29-10, Midnight – Billy Nungesser’s blood pressure is back up, and he’s throwing bombs again.

Can’t blame him one bit. The man’s hitting the target, after all.

Not to be outdone, St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro blasted away at the federal response today in no uncertain terms…

6-28-10, 3:12 p.m. – We’ll open this up with a quick recap on what we’re dealing with, thanks to Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

** The feds only accepted assistance from 5 of 28 countries.
** It took the Obama Administration 53 days to accept help from the Dutch and British.
** It took them 58 days to mobilize the US military to the Gulf.
** The feds shut down crude-sucking barges due to fire extinguisher concerns.
** The Obama Administration ignore oil boom manufacturers that have miles of product stockpiled in their warehouses.
** They only have moved 31 of 2,000 oil skimmers to the disaster area off of Florida.
** Florida hired an additional 5 skimmer boats to operate off its coast due to federal inaction.
** There are no skimmer boats off the coast of Mississippi.
** The feds shut down sand berm dredging off the Louisiana coast.
** The president continues to hit the golf course, ball games, hold BBQ’s and party while the crude oil washes up on shore.

Meanwhile, it looks like we dodged a bullet with Tropical Storm Alex headed to Mexico, though the effect of the storm in the Gulf will probably make for high seas and push some oil inland. A Coast Guard official speaking at Rep. Bill Cassidy’s small business conference earlier today said that the spill collection efforts at the site would be stopped because of 10-foot seas; the Q4000, which is flaring the oil and gas after collecting it from the choke and kill valves, will continue to do so, but lightering the oil from the Discoverer Enterprise is out until the storm passes.

So that’s more oil for the waves to carry to shore, which makes it even more of a tragedy that the efforts to clean the oil up offshore and on have been so incompetently pursued.

Our Coast Guard official from earlier today said that only now has BP brought in a super tanker to siphon oil on the water, a proven idea which cleaned up a spill at least this size in Saudi Arabia in 1993. The government didn’t have a hand in that decision, apparently.

As for BP CEO Tony Hayward, he denies he’s out. Few believe him.

In Mississippi, the oil has finally come. Outrage has hit over the fact that no skimmers have been deployed in Mississippi’s waters; as Hoft’s recap above mentioned, while there are over 2,000 skimmer vessels in America the feds decided it was a good idea to leave the majority of them where they are; in case there’s an oil spill in Savannah or Norfolk, for example.

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