My understanding is that the problem with fire booms is that conditions have to be perfect. If you have any waves, it makes it very tough. Plus, most of this spill is underwater. But I’m curious as to what our “fire boom” guy thinks (I don’t know who he is, I just know he’s out there).
Rove’s critique of the administration’s response rests on other acts of bureacratic delay and incompetence:
Take the containment strategy of barrier berms. These temporary sand islands block the flow of oil into fragile wetlands and marshes. Berm construction requires approval from the Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Louisiana officials asked permission on May 11. They have yet to hear back. The feds are conducting a review as oil washes ashore.
The federal government was even slower on the question of dispersants, chemicals used to break up the oil and hasten its evaporation from the surface of the water. On May 8, Louisiana sent a letter to BP and the EPA begging BP not to use dispersants below the surface of the water. Subsurface use of dispersants keeps oil slicks from forming. But when it doesn’t come to the surface to evaporate, the oil lingers below, gets into underwater currents, and puts at risk fisheries that supply a third of America’s seafood.
On May 13, EPA overruled the state and permitted BP to use dispersants 4,000 feet below the surface. Then, a week after BP released 55,000 gallons of dispersants below the surface, EPA did an about-face, ordering BP to stop using the dispersant and to “find a less-toxic” one. Louisiana officials found out about this imprecise guidance in the Washington Post. BP refused, EPA backed off, and Louisiana’s concerns about their marine fisheries remain.
Last weekend, as winds and currents drove oil towards particularly sensitive wetlands, the state asked Washington to mobilize all available boats to deploy booms and containment devices. Federal officials didn’t act. Local officials were forced to commandeer the boats. Even then some equipment went unused.
State officials believe their federal counterparts don’t have a handle on the resources being deployed and are constantly overestimating the amount of booms, containment equipment, and boats being used.