The man who symbolizes the botched response to the BP spill and was perhaps most responsible for the massive human-health experiment in the Gulf is finally exiting – and, oh yes, Tony Hayward is leaving too.
Retired Adm. Thad Allen, the so-called National Incident Commander, this week announced his resignation Oct. 1 – and, in doing so, had his own Hayward-like “I want my life back” moment. He said his immediate plans were to take his wife on a delayed trip to Ireland and build a house. But nobody payed much notice.
In recent interviews, Adm. Allen actually had something negative to say about his effort, admitting he should have done more to include state and local officials in the initial response. That’s certainly true, but I doubt it’s anywhere near his most glaring misstep. Adm. Allen and his “Unified Area Command” seized power from the government, restricted media and resident access to the spill site (a move that will greatly benefit BP in court), helped low-ball oil-flow estimates before completely underestimating environmental dangers and releasing that now-infamous report that the oil was “vastly” gone. You could say he became a virtual BP spokesperson, but it’s likely BP would have showed some respect for a professional spokesperson.
Adm. Allen casually admitted seizing power from elected officials and locking them out of decisions that BP “helped” make. He made the de facto confession during his departure announcement (he phrased it differently), saying that tasks that fell under Unified Area Command during the height of the response – such as seafood safety, behavioral health and community outreach – will soon return to the the purview of government agencies that would normally attend to those issues. Here’s my translation of what he actually said: We should have included the local government agencies more, but BP wouldn’t go for it – and we’ll return power to civilian authorities whenever the hell we decide to.
Oh, and did I mention, BP CEO Tony Hayward is also out next month. He’s a much easier target, but frankly, he shouldn’t anger us that much, because he never really represented the American people – like, say, a U.S. Coast Guard admiral would. Hayward and the other BP brass actually opened our eyes: They showed us the utter disdain and contempt they have for the lives of the “small people,” as they scurried to get their lives back. It’s a lesson worth remembering as BP flails toward “making it right” in communities across the Gulf.
Allen and Hayward are getting back to their pre-disaster lives, while tens of thousands of our neighbors wait desperately for even the slightest bit of help from the BP compensation fund. Their lives will never be the same. They can’t ever go back. No way. No how. And when the actual impact of those 2 million gallons of dispersants comes home to roost, let’s remember it was Adm. Allen who made that happen.
I say, good riddance. The sooner they’re gone, the sooner we can begin, in earnest, to restore the Gulf and our broken communities.
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