It seemed the Deepwater Horizon had barely sunk when the right-vocateur Rush Limbaugh pounced and pronounced the Gulf oil spill was “Obama’s Katrina.” So what that BP is the “responsible party” for cleanup under federal law? So what that the government doesn’t have the leak-stopping know-how and equipment? So what that the death toll was vastly different?
All that aside, Limbaugh will start looking more right than wrong if the disaster continues much longer.
The lesson of Katrina: When the responsible party repeatedly fails to act responsibly, then those who are truly responsible have a responsibility to act.
The clear failure of President Bush’s administration in handling Katrina was that it allowed Louisiana and the City of New Orleans to fail. Local governments are the primary (responsible) parties in a disaster. But with the city and state’s failure to properly evacuate the flood-prone city, the locals were anything but responsible. There’s a reason New Orleans was nicknamed the City that Care Forgot years ago (remember, too, the Army Corps’ failure to heed repeated warnings that the flood-control system would fail within its stated capacity).
Today, BP looks anything but responsible. Two Sundays ago, 60 Minutes made a strong case that the accident was caused, in large part, by BP's reckless disregarded for a number of precautions in its lust for oil. After the Deepwater Horizon sank, BP suggested there was no leak. Then it was 1,000 barrels a day. Oops. Make that 5,000 barrels/day. Oops. We don’t know how many barrels. We don’t need to know. Oops. We actually do need to know. We’ll stop the leak by putting a dome on it. Oops. That didn’t work. Then we’ll try a top hat (what happened to that?). Then we’ll stick a tube in the leaky pipe. Oops. That didn’t seem to do much.
Throughout, the Obama Administration and everyone has called BP the "responsible party."
Allegedly, the “top-kill” procedure might’ve worked this morning. Too late, though, for many in Louisiana, where the feds’ heckuva-job-ism has echoes of Katrina. Two weeks ago, at a town hall meeting in the fishing village of Dulac, U.S. Coast Guard Commander Ben Cooper told the people whose livelihoods, culture and environment faced extinction to not worry so much.
He estimated that the spill was essentially contained in a 5-mile by 5-mile “box” located 52 miles from shore. And he said that, according to NOAA, 50 percent of an oil spill evaporates in 48 hours.
“It is not the worst case scenario,” he said in a reassuring tone. “I came out here 12 days ago, but we’ve kept it (the spill) the same size.”
Now the oil’s in the marsh. Oops.
At the same meeting, residents were all but assured that the subsea dispersant used to zap the oil was safe. So said Mathy V. Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response at the Environmental Protection Agency, and Mark Johnson, a toxicologist with the Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal protested the use of the dispersants, which had not been studied and approved ahead of time. He wanted corps approval to dredge and fill shattered outer barrier islands to stop the oil from washing into the hard-to-clean marsh. The corps, under Obama’s control, has yet to approve the plan.
So BP didn’t need a permit to spray poison that can kill the environment. But if the governor has a plan to help save the environment? Well, he’ll need a permit. And he’ll need to wait.
Oh yeah, now EPA wants to stop the use of subsea dispersants. Oops.
What could the federal government and/or BP have done differently? Maybe the Coast Guard could have listened to experts like Nick Pozzi or read the May 13 Esquire article about one way to keep the oil offshore. Pozzi apparently worked for Aramco in 1993 and 1994 when the Saudi Arabian government contained a 700 million-gallon spill by using multiple supertankers that clean the oil from the seawater onsite.
There’s more history from the Middle East to consider as well. BP originally started as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. It then became the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and had such an abysmal record mistreating Iranians that the government under Mohammed Mossadegh finally nationalized AIOC in 1951. Two years later, the United States ignited a coup, overthrew the democratically elected prime minister, installed a dictator and ultimately helped lead to hatred of our nation by so many Iranians that it led to the hostage crisis and Khomeini.
When Obama apologized for all this, he was castigated by guys like Limbaugh, who also bash the administration for expanding government because it essentially owns banks, an insurance company and car companies. Maybe we should take a page from Mossadegh and just nationalize BP until it acts responsibly. After all, political power often comes from the barrel of a gun – only slightly more so than from a barrel of oil.