The Feds Just Don’t Get It


In this era of instant conversation, real-time teleconferencing and satellite phones, how does the federal government react to news that a dangerous leak has been detected in the nation’s most devastating oil spill? A letter, a 24-hour grace period, a conference call? What, the White House doesn’t have Skype?

No, really. The Coast Guard letter sounds like the inspector in Casablanca ordering a round-up of the usual suspects: “When seeps are detected, you are directed to marshal resources, quickly investigate, and report findings to the government in no more than four hours.” That was from federal response chief Thad Allen in a letter to BP Chief Managing Director Bob Dudley released late Sunday.

Four hours? How about “now” or as quickly as humanly possible?

On Monday, BP released a statement not mentioning any leaks, flatly contradicting the Coast Guard: “While we are pleased that no oil is currently being released into the Gulf of Mexico and want to take all appropriate action to keep it that way, it is important that all decisions are driven by the science.”

Then, a warning from BP: “Ultimately, we must ensure no irreversible damage is done which could cause uncontrolled leakage from numerous points on the sea floor.”

Eventually, you have to realize that BP is acting like a private company with primary responsiblity to its shareholders, taking every possible measure to limit liability while keeping Congress at bay. The company is out to minimize losses while esuring its massive profits continue.

You have to listen to people, like James Carville, who write off BP and wonder why the government isn’t doing more. Can somebody tell me why – three months into this disaster – that we’re offering grace periods and “demanding” to know about leaks in four hours instead of instantly?

1 comment

  • Kudos to you Mr. Smith…Now go to Washington…and thump some numb-skulls.

    I am the granddaughter of a North Carolina Coast Fisherman. It is frightening to watch our government, which was established for one very important–of few–reasons: to protect the rights of citizens from encroachments by others, both foreign and domestic. It is clear that BP both quantifies and qualifies as an “other” that we we need to be protected from…What is going on?

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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