The Oil Spill Crisis That Didn't Go To Waste

The extent of the Obama Administration's political opportunism in the Gulf oil spill is being revealed as the investigation into the Deepwater Horizon accident continues to plod along. A spate of new developments on the political front highlights the bending of facts to fit a political agenda.

The Marine Well Containment Company has successfully tested their new capping stack, thereby removing the Interior Department's last fig leaf for their illegal drilling moratorium. The containment scheme is a somewhat Rube Goldberg-ish variation on that used by BP during their successful capping of the Macondo well in July 2010. 

The New York Times reported that Federal Judge Martin Feldman has issued an injunction requiring the Interior Department to "move quickly on permits for new deepwater oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico, saying that the government could no longer justify long delays in allowing new projects to go forward. While the New Orleans Times Picayune reported on a meeting Senator David Vitter (D-La) had with Michael Bromwich of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement in which "Bromwich said some things that would make most Lousianians' head spin." "For example," said Vitter, "on top of continuing to claim there is no de facto moratorium, the director told me that it was 'not his job to issue permits.' That's news to most energy-related businesses as well as the thousands of Louisiana employees affected by his agency's lack of permit approval.

Two of Oil Spill Commissioners, Dr. Donald Boesch and Terry Garcia, and Admiral Thad Allen made an appearance before a hearing the House Transportation Committee, now under Republican control. The commissioners once again tried to sell their report as is and enact the suggested legislation now (before the facts emerge). Admiral Allen, a tragic figure who knows better,  urged the committee to wait for the pending joint Coast Guard-MMS investigation to release its findings before enacting any new legislation.

It is sad to see the hero of the Coast Guard rescue operation after Katrina, where the USCG rescued over 20,000 citizens, brought to position of watching his inclination to obey civilian political leadership, a necessary requisite for a military leader, as he once was when the USCG was a part of the Navy, get his reputation entwined with that of the political hacks of the Obama Administration. Perhaps under some very pointed questioning he can make an effort to redeem himself by bringing transparency to what he had helped make opaque. In the written testimony of Adm Allen:

At the federal level the governance of the spill was also complicated by the overlapping structures contained in the National Contingency Plan which predates the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the role of the Secretary of Homeland Security as outlined in the Presidential Directive 5 and the Homeland Security Act which designate the Secretary as the Principal Federal Official for incident management. While these roles were adjudicated and integrated during the response, work remains to clarify unity of effort and a whole of government response.

Finally, an opportunity to address these key issues was lost in March 2010 (just prior to the incident) when a Spill of National Significance exercise was held in the Northeast United States. Because this exercise was not considered a Tier One Exercise there was no mandatory participation by cabinet-level leaders. In my opinion there should be another SONS Exercise within one year to turn around lessons learned and increase our preparedness, including resolution of NCP/HSPD-5 overlaps and gaps.

That is an extraordinarily polite way of stating the obvious,  He was plagued by a host of "The Best and the Brightest" of the Obama Cabinet, particularly his immediate boss as Commandant of the Coast Guard, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who were utterly clueless but thought they knew more than people who had actually worked on the plan beforehand. While he does not single the others out, they would include Eric Holder, Steven Chu, Ken Salazar, Carol Browner et al. As I said above, the Admiral cuts a tragic figure, a good man in a messy situation. The tragedy for the residents of the Gulf Coast, is that this disorder undoubtedly impacted the well intentioned efforts and prolonged the duration of the spill. BP could get permission for tiny little nibbles around the edges of the wreckage instead of a forthright effort to intervene and as Hamlet put it:

Take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.

Instead we got:

An overabundance of caution

Of course, that allowed the cabinet officers to hide as BP took the heat and the fines piled up. And have no doubt that the government wants to rip off as much money from BP as they can get away with. Those Oil Spill Commissioners envision BP's fines paying for the whole reclaiming of the Louisiana coast line against its subsidence into the Gulf. Never mind that BP did not create the levees along the Mississippi River, or that a lot of British pensioners have seen their retirement investment in BP devastated by the greed of the Obama Administration. How much easier it would be for the administration to railroad the Congress into passing legislation before the Joint Investigation releases its report. It reminds me of the way David Axelrod told the Sunday talk shows on July 10, 2010 that it would take 10 days to shut the capping stack in, precisely the number of days it was projected Harry Reid would need to pass cap and trade legislation in the Senate. In the event, public pressure forced the capping stack to be shut in on July 15 and the flow of oil permanently ceased on that date. "Snidely Whiplash" Axelrod must have been saying "Curses foiled again" to his associates in the West Wing!