Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Timeline to Where, Exactly?

Let's see. The BP Deepwater explosion took place on April 20, snuffing out 11 lives and be-fouling the Gulf of Mexico.

On May 27th, President Obama announced, "The American people should know that from the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort. . . Make no mistake, BP is operating at our direction." He also suspended exploratory drilling off the coast of Virginia and placed a 6-month moratorium on all offshore drilling in the Gulf.

Make no mistake, thousands of Gulf South residents were immediately thrown out of work.

On June 1st, two weeks after establishing it, Obama gave his "independent commission" and its co-chairs -- neither of whom are representatives of the oil industry -- orders to investigate the causes and effects of the spill, come back, and make recommendations six months hence. He was apparently not in any kind of hurry, however, because on that very day he still had yet to round out the commission, lacking five more appointments. June 1 was the first time he had met with any commissioners.

Six month moratorium, six-month deadline to report back.

The fishing industry was taking a serious lick by this time with many oyster beds shut down. Tourism was sure to follow.

On June 16th, Obama addressed the nation in his first-ever televised speech from the Oval Office. He told his captive audience, "Make no mistake, . . . We will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long as it takes."

"As long as it takes" to accomplish exactly what the Young President didn't make quite as clear. Making no mistake, I'm almost afraid to speculate.

June 22nd saw a federal district court dissolve the administration's 6-month moratorium of all offshore drilling, finding the moratorium to be overly broad, arbitrary, and capricious.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused the government's request to stay the District Court's order on July 9th. Spirits were raised a bit, but evidence that drilling would soon resume failed to materialize, primarily as a result of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's promise to overhaul the moratorium and re-institute it tout de suite, coupled with a late August hearing date for full arguments before the Fifth Circuit, expedited though it is.

Today, the migration of oil rigs from the Gulf flows like oil from the Deepwater Horizon breach, towing ever more jobs along in its wake.

Tomorrow, July 12th, in New Orleans, the nominally "independent" presidential commission will hold its first public hearing. The first public hearing will take place nearly two months after the commission was constituted. I can hear feet dragging from my front porch as Gulf families struggle to figure out their futures.

Inexcusable. Disgusting.

When it finally gets down to work, the commission would be wise to take a look at the bigger picture -- this is not just an environmental issue, although the environmental issue is indeed an overarching concern. And the commission would be wise and compassionate if it heeds the advice offered in today's Times-Picayune op-ed piece:

Louisianians are not advocating letting deepwater drilling continue as if nothing has happened and under the flawed enforcement of the past. Quite the opposite, no one in this region wants a repeat of the BP oil spill and its devastating environmental and economic impact.

But we also understand that the administration's blanket moratorium can cause as much or more economic damage as the spill. Up to 8,000 jobs could be lost on the rigs themselves, and another 24,000 jobs could be shed by companies that supply the rigs. Independent scientists and experts consulted by the Interior Department have argued that a more tailored moratorium, coupled with other safety measures, could be more effective. That's a sensible position.

. . . .

Louisianians understand that a catastrophe like the BP oil spill warrants a serious review, so accidents can be prevented in the future. But the president's commission
needs to keep an open mind and make a balanced assessment of our need for oil
and of ways to mitigate the risks.

No one wants another Deepwater Horizon. But an entire industry that's vital for our state and the nation should not be easily written off because of the mistakes of some. Louisiana, the Gulf Coast and the nation deserve an honest and objective assessment that takes into account concerns from all sides.

I couldn't have said it better myself -- but I would add one more admonition to the commission: act quickly, as if your hair was afire. Because life and culture on the Gulf is going down in flames.


  1. It would be an exaggeration to say the gub'mint's "man-made disaster" is of equal proportion to the spill. But they sure as Hell ain't helping much with that dumb-ass moratorium and foot dragging in all other areas... like initially refusing the help offered from other countries. It's been a sorry-assed display.

  2. It surely does give one pause to contemplate all kinds of conspiracy theories, doesn't it. Turning down all the offer to help was criminal and should be treated as such.