Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thank you, Coast Guard and EPA. But WTF took you so long?

On the 71st day of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, the federal government finally figured out that, yeah, it really was standing in the way of the deployment of more skimmers to the region:

In an attempt to streamline federal laws that require skimmers and other oil spill response equipment to be on hand in other parts of the country -- preventing their use in the Gulf of Mexico -- the Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency issued a temporary rule Tuesday that would free up resources and allow them to combat the Gulf oil disaster.

The rule releases regulated facilities and vessels from Coast Guard and EPA requirements that "would otherwise preclude them from relocating owned response resources or releasing contracted response resources to be moved to the Gulf region."

In large bodies of water like the Gulf of Mexico, oil spill response consists of two primary operations to prevent large concentrations of crude from spoiling shorelines: Disperal operations and skimming/collection. EPA has stood in the way of both of them in the Gulf. They threw a hissy fit when BP announced that it would use chemical dispersants below the surface, and didn't relent until BP demonstrated that the measures were effective. They stood in the way of deploying skimmers and oily water collection because water they left behind wasn't 99.995% pure. Try to wrap your mind around this bureaucratic nonsense:

You can't use that skimming or oily water collection technology to remove massive, miles-wide globs of crude because, well, you're leaving the water contaminated with more than our arbitrarily determined few parts per million.

That's like telling an ER physician that he can't perform an emergency surgical technique because it might leave a scar. It's like telling a firefighter that he can't hose down a burning house because the ground will get all yucky with ashes and stuff.

We're glad you finally came to your senses, guys. Governors Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour and Bob Riley have been hollering for more skimmers for weeks on end.  Senator George LeMieux took to the floor of the US Senate and pleaded for more skimmers.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot took you so long?

Related:  Obama can't suck it up with a straw, but...

I want to give some props to Chris Kirkham of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  His reporting on this disaster has been nothing short of exceptional.  You can follow his stories with the link above, and if you're on Twitter, you can follow him at chriskirkhamTP.

UPDATE: Ace has more on this.

Gimme some feedback in the comments.


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