The New York Times has a long article on Jindal's grandstanding today:
June 25, 2010
Louisiana Wants U.S. Help, and Its Own Way
By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON and JOHN COLLINS RUDOLF
NEW ORLEANS — For weeks, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has attacked BP and the Coast Guard for not having adequate plans and resources to battle the oil spill.
But interviews with more than two dozen state and federal officials and experts suggest that Louisiana, from the earliest days of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has often disregarded its own plans and experts in favor of large-scale proposals that many say would probably have had limited effectiveness and could have even hampered the response.
The state’s approach has also at times appeared divided: while some state officials work alongside the Coast Guard and BP every day, others, including the governor, have championed a go-it-alone approach.
The article notes that Jindal alone, of the Gulf state governors, has been whingeing--probably mainly to score political points with Obama-haters and federal-government-haters and former Bush-supporters who desperately want the Gulf of Mexico to die on Obama's watch to make up for Bush's "Heckuva job, Brownie" while New Orleans drowned in Katrina.
Here's what interested me most in the article:
But a review of Louisiana’s prespill preparation suggests that the state may be open to the same criticisms that Mr. Jindal has leveled at BP and federal authorities.
The state has an oil spill coordinator’s office. Its staff shrank by half over the last decade, and the 17-year-old oil spill research and development program that is associated with the office had its annual $750,000 in financing cut last year. The coordinator is responsible for drawing up and signing off on spill contingency plans with the Coast Guard and a committee of federal, state and local officials.
Some of these plans are rife with omissions, including pages of blank charts that are supposed to detail available supplies of equipment like oil-skimming vessels. A draft action plan for a worst case is among many requirements in the southeast Louisiana proposal listed as “to be developed.”
State officials said that many of those gaps had been addressed but that the information had not yet been formally incorporated into the plan by the Coast Guard.
The plans, in conjunction with state and federal laws, do outline a response structure, called a unified command. In the event of a spill, state officials, the responsible party and the federal authorities, usually the Coast Guard, are supposed to work together to marshal resources and create day-to-day action plans.
From the first days of the spill, state representatives at a command center in Houma, La., have been following that script, signing off on the action plans with the Coast Guard and BP.
But on the first weekend in May, after the governor declared a state of emergency and weeks before heavy oil began to hit the coast, senior members of the Jindal administration decided the unified command was not working.
“We very quickly ran into challenges with the different entities carrying out their responsibilities under that framework,” said Garret Graves, the director of the governor’s office of coastal activities, citing a lack of urgency and decisiveness by the Coast Guard. “That’s where I think the inefficiencies were realized, and that’s why the state began taking an alternative path.”
“I don’t think the Coast Guard or BP had a familiarity with disaster posture,” Mr. Graves added.
On May 3, Mr. Jindal went public with his dissatisfaction.
“We kept being assured over and over that they had a plan, that there was a detailed plan, that it was coming; we never got that plan,” he said.
But under the law, oil spill experts said, there are only two kinds of government plans pertaining to spills, and the state is partly responsible for both.
There are area contingency plans, which the state helps draw up and are meant to be in place when a spill occurs; and there are action plans, which the state helps put together on a day-to-day basis after a spill.
It is just as much the state’s responsibility as anyone’s if a spill occurs and there is no up-to-date contingency plan, said Donald S. Jensen, a retired Coast Guard captain who coordinated the response to several major oil spills.
"After a spill happens is not the time to make a plan," he added.
Nevertheless, state and parish officials drew up their own response plan, a process that usually takes months, over that weekend.
So, the state was not prepared. Its oil spill response plans had lots of blank pages. Yet somehow this is all the Coast Guard's and the federal government's fault?
People in Louisiana are understandably, predictably furious and heartbroken. Third-, fourth-, and more-generation fishermen are losing their livelihoods. Entire coastal villages are without income. The wetlands, already not well from erosion, are wiped out. A hurricane is one thing. But this was the result of human error, and those people are fighting mad. Some politicians are trying to aim that anger at their enemies. I think Jindal may have decided that the best way to escape it was to point at everyone else and start yelling that they're to blame--even though evidence shows that the state itself shares responsibility in any lack of preparedness. Certainly, when his director of communication complained that they kept waiting for plans from from Coast Guard and DC, she had no idea that the state itself
was supposed to have plans on hand. Jindal has just been squawking to avoid getting tarred and feathered. So far, it's worked. But he may have cried "it's their fault, not mine!" too loudly and too often because now he's pissed off enough of his partners in the clean up--namely the Coast Guard--that his own responsibilities are being scrutinized.
He's rushed around trying to look like a man of action, hamstrung by bureaucracies, when really it looks like he was caught unprepared, without a plan, and panicked on such a grand scale that he ordered one-and-a-half the amount of boom available in the U.S. and three times what a contingency plan estimated would be needed to boom the entire coastline of Louisiana.
“I think it’s proven to be not real reasonable,” said Todd Paxton, general manager of Cook Inlet Spill Prevention and Response Inc., an Alaska company. “For one, it’s just a huge amount of boom.”
A call to put out large amounts of that boom immediately, experts said, was also problematic, as boom can quickly be rendered useless by waves and tides if deployed too early.
Still, the unified command put much of the state and parish plan into effect over the next few weeks, while also continuing to draw up its day-to-day action plans.
A little over a week later, Mr. Jindal began to push a sand berm strategy.
Working off an idea put forward by a pair of Dutch marine research and engineering firms, the plan called for the construction of 140 miles of sand barriers, in 24 segments, to protect the inner coastline from oil. Such an idea is also discussed, though not in great detail, in one of the state’s area contingency plans.
Just before midnight on May 11, the state requested an emergency permit for the project from the Army Corps of Engineers. At just three pages, it was intentionally vague, Mr. Graves said, on the understanding that it was likely to need modifications.
Within days the governor began to decry the slow wheels of government.
“While we’re continuing to push the Corps to give us this permit and the Coast Guard and BP to approve this, we’re not letting the bureaucracy stop us,” Mr. Jindal said on May 14.
By that time, federal agencies had already raised serious concerns about the sand berm project, which, by one estimate, could cost nearly $1 billion.
It's overkill. He's panicking. And he's deflecting blame like crazy. I mean, he applies for billion-dollar berm project on May 11 and is complaining about how long the approval is taking three days later. For a billion dollar proposal to essentially build a wall of sand around Louisiana's shore, a wall that may not be as good an idea as it sounds, considering all the variables--which must be considered. After consideration, a modified, smaller berm will be constructed, and it will take months. Or I guess they can give Jindal a sand pail and shovel and it can be done overnight.
So, no, given all of this especially, I'm not inclined to smile and nod when someone tries to make Jindal out to be a hero--even moreso when that someone is Jindal himself. He's a man in a helluva position. But so are the other governors--and none of them are whingeing and running amok and casting blame and aspersions. They are trying to do the best they can with a tragic situation.