Thursday, April 29, 2010

Could Federal Thumb-twiddling Have Led to Disaster?

Former oil spill response coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ron Gouget, says that federal officials should have started burning off oil much sooner, even immediately after the event:

Ron Gouget, who also managed Louisiana's oil response team for a time, said federal officials missed a narrow window of opportunity to gain control of the spill by burning last week, before the spill spread hundreds of miles across the Gulf, and before winds began blowing toward shore.

He also said the heavy use of dispersants instead of burning the oil has likely knocked so much oil into the water column that portions of the Gulf may be on the threshold of becoming toxic to marine life. Add in the oil spreading into the water as it rises from the seafloor, and Gouget said he expected officials would have to begin limiting the use of the dispersants.

There's more at the link, but if Gouget is correct, then federal officials appear to have completely blown the response. What may have been a garden variety spill now has the potential to wreak havoc on one of the most productive and pristine shorelines in the country. Some experts are saying that the spill could grow into one of the worst in US history.

Why didn't Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano use the in-situ burn procedure sooner? I am not a big conspiracy buff at all, but there's something fishy here, and it's not the smell of rotting seafood floating in black soup.

Whether through incompetence, apathy or outright political malice, DHS knew last week that in-situ burning of oil was a viable alternative in their response strategy, and they failed to employ it. The question is, why?

Extra Point: Money Quote from Gouget: "This whole thing has been a daily strip tease. At first they thought it was just the diesel, then they said the well wasn't leaking. It's unfortunate they didn't get the burning going right away. They could have gotten 90 percent of the oil before it spread."


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