What’s wrong with the oil spill response? Sluggish, inflexible bureaucracy. 

Once the Gulf Oil spill is under control, there will be a lot of questions about how the government handles this kind of disaster in the future. Among them: Why has the administration been so slow to accept offers of needed aid from other countries?

Fortunately, Obama seems to have finally woken up to the fact that yes, we could use some help from foreigners, including the Dutch. On April 23, companies in the Netherlands offered us a proven tool for removing oil from the ocean. We blew them off, possibly because of an EPA regulation.

From the Seattle Times this week:

The State Department sent letters to some U.S. allies two weeks after the accident, and the Coast Guard initially sought to assess what supplies might be available overseas, but the administration’s public posture on aid has been inconsistent. On May 5, Crowley announced that 13 international offers had been received and that decisions on what to accept would be made “in the next day or two.” Two weeks later, the State Department said the government saw no reason to accept any of them.

At this point, our government appears to have accepted most of the help being offered. There are conflicting reports about the precise timeline, but the point is that the timeline has been way too long. Note this report, from the Christian Science Monitor of three weeks ago. It seems that the Dutch were very quick with their offer of “sweeping arm” systems that pump oily water and separate the oil. At first, their arm was swept aside:

Dutch companies that manufacture the sweeping arm system first contacted BP officials April 23, three days after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, according to Mr. Huisman, who spoke by phone from his office in The Hague Tuesday. After receiving little reply, the companies turned to his department for help in reaching out to the US State Department, Huisman says.

“We specifically asked those companies that if you have a firm order from BP or the US government, then we can make the arrangements available,” he says. The US Coast Guard made a formal request for the systems May 18, according to Huisman….

Huisman and Koops would only speculate why recovery officials apparently waited about a month to request the technology. One reason may be Environmental Protection Agency regulations that prevent discharging oil-affected water back into the source.

For context, four of these sweeping-arm systems can remove up to 146,000 barrels of oil per day. We wouldn’t want to discharge water with tiny oil droplets back into an oil slick, now would we?

If you wonder at all why Florida AG Bill McCollum is so upset with the federal handling of the spill, this kind of sluggishness and inflexibility explains it all. Combine this with the month-long delay imposed on Louisiana’s efforts to save its own coastline, and a pattern emerges.

About The Author

David Freddoso

David Freddoso came to the Washington Examiner in June 2009, after serving for nearly two years as a Capitol Hill-based staff reporter for National Review Online. Before writing his New York Times bestselling book, The Case Against Barack Obama, he spent three years assisting Robert Novak, the legendary Washington... more
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