US Coast Guard Halts Clean Up Crew in Gulf

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

In yet another example of government ineptitude in the Gulf crisis, the U.S. Coast Guard halted the activities of 16 of ships that were vacuuming thousands of gallons of crude oil out of Gulf because they were unable to confirm if the boats had enough life vests and fire extinquishers.

According to a report by ABC News, a frustrated Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal was forced to watch the barges sit idle yesterday because of the bureaucratic chaos that continues to surround the government’s intervention in the 59 day-old crisis.

“It’s the most frustrating thing,” Gov. Jindal told ABC. “Literally, yesterday morning we found out that they were halting all of these barges. . . . These barges work. You’ve seen them work. You’ve seen them suck oil out of the water.”

But they were forced to stop when the Coast Guard got involved.
“The Coast Guard came and shut them down,” Jindal said. “You got men on the barges in the oil, and they have been told by the Coast Guard, ‘Cease and desist. Stop sucking up that oil.'”

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Lauer told ABC that they share the same goal as the governor.

“We are all in this together. The enemy is the oil,” he said.

However, the Coast Guard had to order the barges to stop vacuuming crude because they needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, he explained. This led to a further delay when they had trouble contacting the people who built the barges.

Unfortunately, governors have no authority to overrule the Coast Guard, even though Gov. Jindal tried to reach the White House to raise his concerns.

“They promised us they were going to get it done as quickly as possible,” he said. But “every time you talk to someone different at the Coast Guard, you get a different answer.”

It was only Jindal “strenuously made his case” that the barges were finally permitted to resume their work today, ABC reports.

Gov. Jindal is not the only governor in the gulf to have problems with the Coast Guard.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said he asked the Coast Guard to find ocean boom tall enough to handle strong waves and protect his shoreline. The Guard located what he needed in Great Gritain, but when it came time to deploy it, they picked it up and moved to Louisiana.

Gov. Riley says the problem is that even after nearly two months of struggling to plug the leak and protect the coast from millions of gallons of oil, there’s still no single person in charge. Local governors are caught between the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to name a few.

“It’s like this huge committee down there,” Gov. Riley said, “and every decision that we try to implement, any one person on that committee has absolute veto power.”

In the meantime, the oil continues to gush and some of America’s most pristine and valuable coastline inch ever closer to destruction.

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