Sunday, June 13, 2010

Government Delays Gulf Oil Spill Cleanup

by Ronnie Spangler

No one can defend British Petroleum (BP) for the disaster taking place in the Gulf Coast. That being said we must take a long hard look at how the US Government and this administration has reacted to this crisis. In the minds of most people it has been slow and dismal at best. Due to the bureaucracy built into are system we should have seen it coming and expected nothing better from our government.

With a system heaped in turf battles and bureaucrats fighting for organizational power, cleanup efforts and efforts to prevent the oil from coming ashore have been drastically undermined.

The President has tried to have it both ways. He has said we are in charge but BP is responsible and they are handling everything from containment to cleanup. The problem facing the government is competing agencies with different policies have different rules for the way BP deals with containment and cleanup. This has caused mass confusion and has hampered BP and Gulf Coast state governments in their efforts in both areas. This confusion has allowed not only the containment but also the actual cleanup to become a lackluster effort at best.

Not only must BP deal with the economic claims from residents and business along the coast, BP must try to understand and follow overlapping jurisdiction from a ever increasing number government agencies. Before they can take any action to prevent the spread of oil or the onshore cleanup, they must first make sure they have the approval and then follow the guidelines of each and every agency or bureaucrat.

It is no better for the states along the Gulf that must deal with all of these different federal agencies. Being a private entity, just try to imagine what it would be like trying to follow American laws (some written as far back as 1920) and all of the different rules of the different agencies of the Federal Government. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy.

Here are a few of the agencies BP and states along the Gulf must deal with during this crisis.

Coast Guard
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Office of Air and Radiation
Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
Office of International Affairs
Office of Water
Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Department of Interior
Bureau of Land Management
Minerals Management Services
National Park Services
Fish and Wildlife Services
Corps of Engineers

There are more but each of the above agencies or divisions or offices within the agency has its own interest and guidelines that must be followed.

OSHA in its effort to protect American workers only allows contracted workers or Federal workers to work 20 minutes out of 60 minutes cleaning up oil that has reached the shore. At this rate for every 100 employees working for 20 minutes another 300 employees will be standing around for 40 minutes doing nothing. Americans working for Jiffy Lube changing oil in vehicles work 8 to 10 hours a day without this kind of policy.

If the President was serious about helping the Gulf area and reducing the effects of this disaster, in the very beginning he would have declared this a National Disaster. This would have allowed a national emergency response that could have relaxed or eliminated some of the political and bureaucratic infighting and confusion.

Lessons learned from this disaster will not be known for years to come. This Administration will never admit any failings. From the beginning they have felt it was only necessary to find fault and lay blame. I have still not been able to understand how the Federal Government (especially the Executive Branch) can abdicate government responsibility, procedures, or enforcement of federal policy such as closing or restricting access to public beaches, to private entities like BP.

The President will have his meeting with BP and give a great speech where he will announce a tougher stand and maybe a breakthrough on settling claims faster and more efficiently. One idea is to create an escrow account paid into by BP and having a third party independent committee settle the claims, more bureaucracy. If the government sector can really be more efficient than the private sector I would suggest BP place in escrow in each state along the Gulf $25 million dollars for the state agency to settle claims related to damages from the spill. This should carry residents and businesses through the year and will not release BP from future claims or damages. Money that was not spent by one state could be transferred to another state or more added as legitimate claims increased.

The biggest problem facing the government and BP will be deciding who and what part of the economy was effected by the oil spill and how much of a percentage point did the already failing economy play in industries like tourism. There is one fact that cannot be ignored. With the national unemployment rate near 10%, in some states 12%-15%, tourism would have declined not only along the Gulf but throughout the country as well. Families that could take a vacation or had extra money to spend had already decided to stay closer to home. Parents were discussing cheaper ways to enjoy their time off long before the oil spill. Another fact of life is normally unemployed people do not travel from state to state on vacations.

It is time to lay equal blame on both BP and the Federal Government for failing to limit the disaster of the accident on the oil rig. It is also time for America to understand that big government is not the answer to every problem. A large bureaucratic government only enlarges a problem and sometimes turns a crisis into a national disaster with far reaching consequences.

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1 comment:


    The crude oil is toxic! Crews who clean the oily Gulf beaches need to know the danger. Don't become BP's Collateral Damaged, like Exxon’s Collateral Damaged.

    I was female general foreman during the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill cleanup, which turned into 20 years of extensive health deterioration for me and 11,000+ workers, without compensation from Exxon. Beach crews breathed in crude oil that splashed off the rocks and into the air which caused chronic breathing conditions, central nervous system problems, and many health issues.

    There is an on going Longshoreman’s claim for workers with medical problems from the Exxon Valdez oil cleanup.