Obama administration waited a week before following planned response to oil spill

One would think that this would get more attention.

If U.S. officials had followed up on a 1994 response plan for a major Gulf oil spill, it is possible that the spill could have been kept under control and far from land. . . .

A single fire boom being towed by two boats can burn up to 1,800 barrels of oil an hour, Bohleber said. That translates to 75,000 gallons an hour, raising the possibility that the spill could have been contained at the accident scene 100 miles from shore.

"They said this was the tool of last resort. No, this is absolutely the asset of first use. Get in there and start burning oil before the spill gets out of hand," Bohleber said. "If they had six or seven of these systems in place when this happened and got out there and started burning, it would have significantly lessened the amount of oil that got loose."

In the days after the rig sank, U.S Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry said the government had all the assets it needed. She did not discuss why officials waited more than a week to conduct a test burn. . . .

Companies to some extent depend on these promises of government to act. If the government fails to honor its promised actions, it then must bear the appropriate responsibility. If you make companies liable and make them responsible for cleaning things up, I bet that things would have worked out better. As it turns out there is a cap on damages from the spill at $75 million, though that might be due to the fact that people aren't very careful in avoiding harm if the government will reward them 100 percent of claimed damages.

UPDATE: From the WSJ's Political Diary.

Ever since 1989 Exxon Valdez tragedy, the federal government has been required by law to keep spill-fighting equipment in place for an emergency. Ron Gouguet, who once led such efforts for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Press-Register that a quick controlled burn might have captured 95% of the oil spilling from the offshore well. In the event, it took federal officials eight days to conduct the first test burn of the leaking oil. By then, strong winds and rough seas inhibited its effectiveness.

Another factor may also have played a role in the failure to properly prepare. Certain environmental groups have long opposed the 1994 federal response plan for the Gulf region that called for burning any oil spill right away. Even Rear Admiral Mary Landry, the federal official coordinating the oil spill cleanup, told reporters last week that burning the oil meant a "black plume" of smoke that could effect birds and mammals. . . .

From Politico:

The ferocious oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is threatening President Barack Obama’s reputation for competence, just as surely as it endangers the Gulf ecosystem.

So White House aides are escalating their efforts to reassure Congress and the public in the face of a slow-motion catastrophe, even though it’s not clear they can bring it under control anytime soon.

“There is no good answer to this,” one senior administration official said. “There is no readily apparent solution besides one that could take three months. ... If it doesn’t show the impotence of the government, it shows the limits of the government.” . . .

So the administration is denying that there is anything that they could have done.

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