- The Washington Times - Friday, June 25, 2010

The Obama administration’s red tape continues to tie the hands of individuals seeking to mitigate the effects of the disastrous oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a sign of how out-of-touch the O Force’s priorities have become.

Last week, the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers teamed up to thwart efforts to build sand berms to protect the fragile Louisiana coastline. The excuse given for federal intervention was that the state was about to dredge sand too close to the Chandeleur Islands and that a bird habitat might also be affected. State officials reacted with outrage, suggesting the federal claims were bogus.

“The Corps’ own permit indicates that we are currently operating within the allowed dredge area,” Garrett Graves, chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority explained in a June 23 statement. “The Department of the Interior’s continued insistence that this dredge area is a bird rookery makes it clear that they are confused about what it is that they are protecting - and perhaps have never been to the Chandeleurs at all. There isn’t a place for a bird to land for over a mile away.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana Republican, has been active in pushing the sand barrier to protect the coast. He explained that the federal “help” was making things worse, saying, “Get out of the way; move this bureaucracy out of the way.”

The same bureaucratic obstinance sabotaged relief efforts from the earliest days of the crisis. Radio Netherlands, for example, reported on May 4 that the Environmental Protection Agency’s water discharge rules appear to have played a role in prompting federal agencies to turn down international offers of assistance, including oil skimming equipment from the Netherlands. The massive Dutch ships are specifically designed to deal with oil spills by taking in the contaminated seawater, separating out a large amount of oil and then dumping the remaining water overboard. “But the water does contain some oil residue, and that is too much according to U.S. environment regulations,” Radio Netherlands explained.

These ships sat idle for six weeks because bureaucratic rules could not distinguish an effort that would have sucked 5,000 tons of oil per day out of the Gulf from the actions of someone deliberately pumping oil into the water.

“In case you were wondering who’s responsible,” said President Obama at his May 28 press conference, “I take responsibility.” That sounds about right - except that this time, a better phrase for “responsibility” would be “the blame.”

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