It is hardly in dispute that this Administration has consistently fallen well short of the transparency and accountability it promised at its inception. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) is right to be skeptical regarding the Administration’s methods and intentions in its recent approach to BP, strong words like “shakedown” notwithstanding. Nothing in his statement implies any exoneration of BP from paying the full cost of the damage it has done. The hysteria that has greeted the statement is unseemly at best, distracting and counterproductive at worst; Rep. Hall should know better.
The American public needs and deserves better from this Administration than its slow and ineffective response to the Gulf spill, which has dragged on for more than eight weeks now. Immediate options wasted at the outset include suspension of the Jones Act to allow foreign ships to assist remediation efforts, and expedited decision-making regarding the construction of sand berms to protect sensitive marshlands (which Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is ready to do if only the federal government would “get out of the way”). The latest outrage is the news that the Coast Guard, under Commander-in-Chief Obama, shut down operations aboard 16 oil-vacuum barges, pending verification of having an adequate number of safety vests on board. Delaying oil recovery while we wait for bureaucratic bean-counting is no way to deploy our government’s resources.
Clearly, BP is responsible for the spill and for its costs, and it is right to assure that BP is committed to paying these costs. Just as clearly, BP cannot be relied upon to act alone. Protecting our environment is one of the things we need our federal government to do and do well. In addition to correcting the problems noted above, we must also reform the Minerals Management Service that failed miserably in providing proper oversight (going so far as to hand the doomed platform a safety award just a year ago), and we must ultimately assure that our energy needs are optimally met for the future.
Now is the time for our government to facilitate stopping the spill and mitigating the damage. This requires an intelligent approach, with an understanding of the risks and benefits of the methods of energy production. It requires leadership that looks beyond petty disputes over language. Congressman Hall has shown that he is not a leader.