In Gulf oil spill 'war,' cleanup foot soldiers threaten mutiny
Claims problems and mixed messages from the Gulf oil spill unified command structure has local leaders from Pensacola to Plaquemines Parish fuming as the Gulf comes under what some call a 'tarball attack.'
(Page 2 of 3)
But local officials say they've seen little improvement as their requests get bounced around, ignored or even opposed.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The main problem, they say, is the confusing command structure, which to them seems to have too many generals and not enough battlefield commanders, thus gumming up the ability of local leaders to react to approaching oil.
"How can you fight a war when you don't let the people on the ground make decisions," says Escambia County Commission Chairman Grover Robinson. "You're going to lose that war."
Mr. Robinson told the Monitor that requests for more help after a large swath of oil washed up on Pensacola Beach Tuesday night were initially rebuffed because central command in Mobile said they couldn't put certain kinds of equipment on a national seashore. But most of Santa Rosa Island is a public beach. "How could they not know that?" Robinson said.
In Plaquemines Parish, Mr. Nungesser blamed "government bureaucratics" for shutting down construction of a piece of a new protective berm structure over concerns they were dredging an area outside the allowed perimeter, possibly damaging the natural sand dunes. The delay came as northwesterly winds drove the spill toward the Chandeleur Islands. Two weeks ago, the Coast Guard temporarily shut down a barge pumping operation run by the state of Louisiana because the boats didn't have enough life vests aboard.
“We have told ... the Army Corps of Engineers and every federal agency that we are in an emergency situation here," Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday. "This is a disaster for our state. Days count. Hours count. We cannot wait for more conference calls and meetings for discussions. We need to adapt to the situation on the ground...."
Many are pointing to the inadequacy of the Oil Protection Act of 1990, which didn't anticipate a Gulf disaster of this magnitude. President Obama has said "The buck stops with me" on response to the oil spill, but that has also set him up for criticism of a management style that tends toward careful deliberation, not rapid on-the-ground decisions.
"[The] effort has been bedeviled by a lack of preparation, organization, urgency and clear lines of authority among federal, state and local officials, as well as BP," the New York Times' Campbell Robertson wrote recently.
Part of the problem is having BP in charge of the purse strings, says Robinson. The struggling multinational has vowed repeatedly to pay all claims and costs, but the route of the money is far from clear in a constantly changing claims structure. Robinson said his county has had to go through three different claims processes to get paid for nearly $2 million in local expenses, but has yet to receive a check.