Friday, June 25, 2010

Jones Act Folly Shows Misguided Priorities

Today's Mobile Press-Register has an insightful editorial urging the Obama regime to suspend enforcement of the Jones Act, allowing foreign-flagged vessels much greater freedom in assisting the domestic fleet in the response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.  The editorial board writes, in part:

Now, under current law, foreign ships can request individual waivers to enter and exit U.S. ports, but such requests must be reviewed by the Departments of Defense and Energy, plus the Coast Guard, before customs officials can grant them.

That's way too cumbersome and time-consuming for a Gulf Coast awash in oil.


The U.S. has said it will accept equipment from several countries. But we cannot afford to tell anyone "thanks, but no thanks," as the president did to the Dutch when they wanted to send ships in the days after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. Had those ships departed in late April, they already would have spent weeks skimming the oil that is now covering wetlands and wildlife across several states.

The editorial goes on to say that this is basically oily water under the Perdido Pass bridge, but it is still very important to point out that incredibly precious time has been squandered by the regime, and this is not even the first--or the worst--instance of thumb-twiddling.  Valuable opportunities to take bold action have presented themselves on numerous occasions since the April 20 explosion, fire and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon, which killed 11 men and set off what could become the worst spill in the history of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  Consider:

  • Crews didn't begin the first "controlled burn" of oil floating atop the water, using specially constructed fire booms, until April 28. The fire booms, which were not on hand (or even within hundreds of miles of the coast) had to be ordered from Ohio. Experts in marine oil spills harshly criticized BP and the federal government, stating that burning procedures were established in plans approved in 1994 and were pre-approved to facilitate rapid response.
  • Obama waited until April 29, nine days after the disaster began to declare it a "Spill of National Significance," which only then triggers a federal response under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. On May 1, eleven days into the spill, he named Thad Allen the "National Incident Commander," which only then triggers the organized disaster response protocol known as the National Incident Management System, or NIMS.
  • In less that 30 days after the spill began, Congressional Democrats had held no fewer than seven hearings on the accident and the spill.  While Obama can't control the Congress' agenda, to argue that he can't influence it is ridiculous.  Furthermore, hearing after hearing forces the executives and technical experts from BP and federal responders to stop what they're doing, prepare testimony, gather evidence, travel to DC and sit before a bunch of grandstanders.
  • On May 22, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser both blasted federal officials, especially the US Army Corps of Engineers, for sitting on permit requests to construct sand berms and protect Louisiana marshes.  Plans were not approved until June 13.
  • James Carville famously blasted the regime for not doing enough on the political disaster and inaction.
  • The Coast Guard didn't grant approval to attempt the "top kill" (injection of heavy drilling mud into the well) until May 26, a full two weeks after BP submitted plans for the procedure.  While it ultimately failed, the time it took to review those plans and the days lost in attempting the top kill allowed tens of thousands more barrels of oil to flow into the Gulf, and in turn delayed the deployment of the additional vessels now being put in place to capture and either process or burn off oil from the well.
  • The regime completely ignored technology used as far back as 1993 by the Saudis, and recommendations of former Shell Oil Company President John Hofmeister.  The strategy calls for deploying a fleet of empty tankers to vacuum huge quantities of oil and water (as in several tens of millions of gallons per day) and transporting them to shore for offloading, separation and processing.  But that, ladies and gentlemen, would require a waiver of the Jones Act.
 Instead of taking bold action to protect the livelihoods and ecological resources of the Gulf Coast, the regime has instead dispatched teams of lawyers to the area.  Suing the well isn't going to make it stop.  And neither are criminal investigations.

Instead of commandeering tankers, waiving the Jones act and clearing the bureaucratic mess that's hampered local and state response "since Day One," the regime manufactured evidence that experts supported a moratorium on deepwater drilling.  In fact, ALL offshore drilling was halted by the regime's bogus and fatally flawed moratorium, and only after a region-wide political and media crap-storm was shallow water drilling allowed to resume on June 8.

The thumb-twiddling, the bureacratic morass, the dispatching of teams of government lawyers, the imposition of draconian, economically disastrous measures to halt drilling, and the stubborn refusal to waive the Jones Act should all be be viewed in the largest possible context.  When you do so, it's hard not to see that the regime's priorities are out of whack.

It appears as if the regime is not nearly as concerned with preventing the damage as it is ensuring that the damage is caused and then amplifying the effects.


UPDATE: More at Patterico, and more still at Confederate Yankee, and still more at JammieWearingFool.

Gimme some feedback in the comments.