Guarding the guardians 0

“As we speak,” Obama began part of his address from the Oval Office about the oil spill in the Gulf, using the royal “we”.

That was all we (editorial) caught before switching him off.

We cannot bear to listen to him. We have, however, read this part of his speech:

One place we have already begun to take action is at the agency in charge of regulating drilling and issuing permits, known as the Minerals Management Service. Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility – a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves. At this agency, industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight. Oil companies showered regulators with gifts and favors, and were essentially allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own regulations.

Who put such villainous persons in charge?

The Director, S. Elizabeth Birnbaum – the one who was fired after the oil began to spill in the Gulf – “assumed duties as Director of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) on July 15, 2009.”

But that means she was appointed in Obama’s reign, doesn’t it?

What was her experience? Was she an “industry insider”?

She was a lawyer, interested in conservation and wild life.

Who assisted her at MMS?

Her Deputy Director was Mary Katherine Ishee, also a lawyer, “appointed Deputy Director of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) on January 19, 2010.”

So she too was appointed in Obama’s reign.

She’s “worked extensively in the renewable energy field and has a depth of experience with the legislative and policy issues affecting both onshore and offshore applications of wind, solar and other renewable energy resources.”

Is there a scientist or engineer in the management?

A scientist, yes. Science Advisor to the Director Alan D. Thornhill was hired in March 2010. His Ph.D is in Ecology. Before coming to MMS he was “Executive Director of the Society for Conservation Biology—an international society of 12,000 conservation professionals working to advance the science and practice of protecting life on Earth. Previously he was the Director of Learning and Communications for the Science Division for The Nature Conservancy (the global organization), and a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Rice University in Houston, Texas.”

They all three seem staunchly “green” and Obama-compliant to us.

What does the MMS have to say about itself?

The MMS is proud of the important work we do for our nation and its economy from within the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The MMS plays a key role in realizing President Obama’s and [Interior] Secretary Salazar’s vision for energy security for the 21st century. Under their leadership, MMS has already begun the enormous work of implementing that vision – by continuing to support safe development of conventional energy sources while also moving this nation toward a clean, renewable energy future.

The MMS is responsible for ensuring the effective management of offshore renewable energy, such as wind, wave, and ocean current energy. We are also responsible for conventional energy and mineral resources on the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf, including the environmentally safe exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas. …

As a federal agency, we offer our commitment that we will continue to work to develop energy from offshore sources responsibly and to develop clean, renewable sources of energy; we will protect the marine environment and help power the economy for future generations.

Thank you, MMS!

But who has replaced S. Elizabeth Birnbaum as Director?

The new head of MMS is Michael Bromwich, another lawyer, with experience in investigating corruption in police departments and the intelligence services.

No more “gifts and favors” then. But about deep-sea oil drilling

Alarums and excursions 0

The Oil Pollution Act 1990 makes the President wholly responsible for cleaning up an oil spill.

Jim Campbell at Canada Free Press tells us more about what the law says:

Amended Section 311 of the federal Clean Water Act. Section 311 now provides in part that:

(A) If a discharge, or a substantial threat of a discharge, of oil or a hazardous substance from a vessel, offshore facility, or onshore facility is of such a size or character as to be a substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United States (including but not limited to fish, shellfish, wildlife, other natural resources, and the public and private beaches and shorelines of the United States), the President shall direct all Federal, State, and private actions to remove the discharge or to mitigate or prevent the threat of the discharge.

(B) In carrying out this paragraph, the President may, without regard to any other provision of law governing contracting procedures or employment of personnel by the Federal Government–

(i) remove or arrange for the removal of the discharge, or mitigate or prevent the substantial threat of the discharge; and

(ii) remove and, if necessary, destroy a vessel discharging, or threatening to discharge, by whatever means are available.

For a picture of the sheer panic now gripping the White House  –  comic  in contrast to the appallingly serious consequences of the oil spill itself – read this account in the Washington Post. Of course that newspaper doesn’t intend its report to be funny. It intends to show how hard the administration is trying to cope with the crisis, and suggest that it’s really tough on the poor [actually plain incompetent and managerially inexperienced] president. But it’s irresistibly Keystone Kops laughable all the same.


The administration is now scrambling to reclaim control, the appearance and the reality of it, over a situation that defies both.

It has been a hasty and somewhat chaotic mobilization of a wide array of disparate government resources — including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the military

The new normal at the Obama White House has required that a whole new schedule be laid on top of the old one. There is a daily oil-spill conference call for Cabinet officers, one for their deputies, yet another with the governors of affected states, and sometimes as many as three briefings a day that include the president himself. …

Though every day is jammed with interagency conference calls and a river of e-mails in between, some officials complain that at times they still feel like they are talking past each other. …

Signals get crossed. On Wednesday, the Minerals Management Service approved two shallow-water drilling permits, only to reverse both the next day, along with those for three other shallow-water operations. Some officials in the Gulf Coast region have complained that they can’t figure out what the administration’s drilling policy really is these days. …

In his radio address Saturday, Obama enumerated the scope of his endeavor to contain the damage, including 17,500 National Guard troops; 20,000 personnel protecting the waters and coasts; 1,900 vessels; 4.3 million feet of boom.

Obama has also called in some of the many scientists on the federal payroll …

The president has pressured other oil companies to step up… [expecting] the entire petroleum industry to dedicate its engineering talent to fixing the spill and preventing others. …

But Obama and his team are still feeling their way, and it is not at all clear what this vast marshaling of resources will accomplish. …

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has launched criminal and civil investigations …

The administration is sending as its emissaries officials who have ties to the region ..

White House officials complain, with some justification, that they are caught between contradictory narratives about their handling of the crisis: that the president is not engaged enough in the details of the response, or that he is getting bogged down in them; that he should spend more time in the gulf making common cause with its residents, or that his repeated trips down there are merely publicity stunts.

And there remains the question of whether, for all its efforts, the administration can really gain control, or even the illusion of it. …