May 30, 2010

In this interview on This Week with Jake Tapper, it's hard to know how much of this is true, since Bobby Jindal has never met a situation he's not willing to exploit for political purposes. But it does sound like a logistical mess out there, what with BP asserting control of the complete operation:

When asked whether he agreed with Obama’s claim that the government was doing everything it could, Jindal said, “I think there could have been a greater sense of urgency.”

Jindal recounted to 'This Week' host Jake Tapper one instance where BP and federal government bureaucracy got in the way of the cleanup.

"Terrebonne Parish…submitted a plan for 180,000 feet of hard boom. The Coast Guard approved them for 90,000 feet. A week ago Friday, they didn't even have 90,000 feet. They didn't have that much boom, hard boom, in the parish…”

Tapper asked the governor what happened next.

“Well, in that case, they literally had hard boom sitting on the dock and they didn't deploy it,” Jindal said. “There was no excuse. The BP contractor said BP told them not to do it until the oil was coming. NOAA projections showed for days, and we saw the oil ourselves.”

“We finally brought the Coast Guard captain that was in charge of Louisiana's response with us on a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter, showed him the oil on the island, showed him the sheen in the bay, showed him the oil coming into that area, and said this needs to be boomed. He agreed it needed to be boomed,” Jindal said.

The boom was finally deployed.

Tapper also pushed Jindal, an avowed conservative, to reconcile his belief in small government with his demands for more federal assistance.

“When government grows too big, it doesn't do its core functions properly,” he said. “Absolutely, I believe in a limited government that is effective and competent in what it does. We need federal government exactly -- we need our federal government exactly for this kind of crisis.”

And in related news, you probably already guessed Jindal isn't exactly nature's steward with the control he does have. Louisiana is a state firmly in the pocket of Big Oil, after all:

But Louisiana also has a history of accommodation to the industry's role in coastal erosion, which devours the equivalent of a football field of the state's wetlands every 38 minutes.

Any pipeline, oil well or other energy development in Louisiana's 19-parish coastal zone needs a state permit, a stamp of approval saying the work results in "no net loss" of wetlands. State regulators are supposed to weigh a project's environmental risks against its economic benefits, but the balance is tipped overwhelmingly in favor of oil and gas, a Times-Picayune review of five years of state records shows.

In fact, of more than 4,500 coastal permits requested by energy companies between 2005 and 2009, regulators did not deny a single one, the newspaper's review shows. Although some applications were still being evaluated, the vast majority allowed firms to do everything from tap new oil wells to install pipelines buried deep beneath fragile marshland from Calcasieu to Plaquemines parishes. More than 100 permits were granted "after the fact," meaning that companies had already begun their work before approaching the state for permission.

[...] Oliver Houck, an environmental lawyer with Tulane University, calls mitigation a "charade" meant to divert attention from the need for tighter regulation.

"What we have is continuing net loss under the slogan of 'no net loss,'" Houck said. "You have a couple of fig leaves out there called mitigation, but the result is this extraordinary act of hara-kiri, this extraordinary amount of damage.

Houck sees the state's reluctance to ask oil companies to pay for past damage as evidence that politicians are afraid to confront an industry so central to Louisiana's economy.

"It would require the state to admit that these canals were part of the problem," Houck said. "It would require the finger to begin to point at the oil and gas industry, and the state won't touch it."

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