The Oil Spill Blame Game

Meredith Turney
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Posted: May 05, 2010 3:11 PM
The Oil Spill Blame Game

It was just five years ago that Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, particularly the city of New Orleans. As the rest of the country watched with sadness and frustration, the federal government stumbled in a timely response to the crisis, allowing the disaster’s impact to grow out of control.

The response from average Americans was an overwhelming display of generosity—and not just financial. Many citizens opened up their homes to displaced refugees. It was yet another example of how, in the darkest hours of need, average Americans are among the most generous and selfless people in the world.

Americans resolved that never again would we allow our fellow citizens to suffer because of a lack of resources, or a delayed response due to poor planning. Unfortunately, just five years later, we’re watching history repeat itself. The response from the federal government to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has revealed an alarming lack of leadership and a surfeit of blame shifting.

Now, shocking reports have emerged that a disaster response plan was instituted in 1994, but, again, the government didn’t follow it. Had leaders followed the “In-Situ Burn” plan, fire booms would have been used to limit the spread of the oil and then burn it before it reached shore.

Astonishingly, the federal government had to purchase one fire boom from a company in Illinois—eight days after the well began leaking oil. Then the government began begging other countries for the fire booms—which, if used when the accident first occurred, could have burned 1,800 barrels of oil per hour, stopping the spread 100 miles from shore.

Yet again, the federal government has let down Gulf Coast residents. Despite rhetorical claims of taking action from “day one,” the administration failed to spring into action when the Deepwater Horizon well exploded.

The Obama administration was quick to begin diverting attention from their embarrassing lack of leadership by pronouncing loudly that BP would be liable for every bit of clean up costs. The disaster is still unfolding and already the blame game is in full swing.

Congress joined the political hysteria when Democrat senators immediately introduced legislation raising the liability cap on oil companies for economic losses related to spills from $75 million to a staggering $10 billion. This is what passes for leadership nowadays?

Perhaps the Obama Administration and Congress are so intent on diverting the public’s attention because of emerging reports that the Interior Department exempted BP’s Gulf of Mexico drilling operations from environmental impact studies last year, protocol that government has used to regulate oil companies. And, according to a Politico article, President Obama was the top recipient of campaign donations from BP over the last 20 years. Regardless of such revelations, the government had a plan instituted for such oil spill disasters, and that plan wasn’t executed—whether by nonfeasance or malfeasance should be investigated.

Instead of posturing for the public, and wasting time on casting blame, the administration should use every resource to prevent further damage. Then, once the disaster is over, investigate ways to prevent future incidents. Instead of providing leadership in the country’s hour of need and directing tangible help to those directly affected, the Obama Administration is engaged in a public relations battle.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of Katrina was ugly national exposure of the government-dependant New Orleans residents who just assumed that the federal government that had cared for them cradle-to-grave would also be there during a natural disaster. They were horribly mistaken.

Just as Arizona was forced to reclaim its sovereignty and begin enforcing immigration laws the federal government refused to honor, Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states must adopt a go-it-alone contingency plan.

If there is a silver lining to the oil spill crisis, maybe it’s that states are realizing they cannot rely upon on the federal government to bail them out. On the one hand, that’s an empowering realization for states rights. On the other hand, it’s a sad testament to the inept state of the federal government.

As the 10th Amendment renaissance grows, many states and their citizens are embracing responsibility for their problems. Just as the Founders intended, individual states, not a big, centralized government, know best how to protect its citizens and dispatch rapid response in emergencies. And just as the Founders’ exemplified, true leaders resolve problems quickly—they don’t cast blame to distract attention from their mistakes.