Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May 25: Why No Plan For Oil Spill Emergencies? Two Reasons....

By Sylvia Gurinsky

During one of his presidential debates with Sen. John McCain in 2008, Barack Obama said the unexpected things would be the ones that would test a president.

Was a major oil spill really that unexpected? Especially by now-President Obama?

There have certainly been enough oil spills that dealing with them should be fundamental. The last thing expected from the April 20 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico would be that both British Petroleum and the federal government would be stumbling around looking for answers, and that they'd both be asking for almost any advice or solution to clean up the spill.

Decades after the Exxon Valdez, the Santa Barbara oil spill and various other spills off coasts around the world, why is that the case?

Two reasons: Greed and complacency.

Not just the greed of Big Oil, whose companies make millions, but also of politicians in both major political parties who rake in their dollars for campaigns. Given that greed, the politicians let oil companies get away with lax standards - even while British Petroleum and others are being fined for them.

Not only that, but there seems to be no provision in place for the federal government to take over the cleanup if a company falls down on the job - which is clearly happenening here with BP.

The Coast Guard, the branch of the military entrusted with saving lives, has been overseeing BP's Keystone Kops imitation. As brilliant as the Coast Guard was in rescuing stranded New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina, it hasn't been able to do much here.

That's because this shouldn't be the Guard's responsibility. Obama should be stating whose responsibility it should be, but he hasn't so far.

If BP can't make one more fix this week, Obama, who has already announced a task force that includes former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham to review the disaster, needs to get federal agencies involved. Then, Obama and the task force must come out with a firm plan for the government and the oil companies to address potential future disasters.

Our elected officials - including the president - must learn to expect the unexpected.

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