Spill Panel: Gov. Jindal ‘Caused Problems,’ Was a ‘Serious Distraction’
October 7, 2010
(ChattahBox US News)— A presidential commission tasked with evaluating the federal response to one of the worst oil disasters in the history of the United States, found that ongoing conflicts between federal responders and state and local officials, hampered early efforts to respond to the oil spill, caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig operated by BP. And take a guess, as to which state and which governor made the most trouble for federal responders. Yup, Louisiana and Governor Bobby Jindal. “The Decision-Making Within the Unified Command, Staff Working Paper No. 2,” slammed Jindal’s know-nothing political grandstanding, concluding that “the conflicts between federal responders and state government appear to have been most severe in Louisiana.” And worse, after “Governor Jindal named himself State On-Scene Coordinator,” his actions “slowed decision-making and caused problems in the response efforts.”
Billy Nungesser, President of Plaquemines Parish was also severely criticized by the panel for his constant demands for more boom, as part of a federal-state conflict the commission called the “Boom Wars.” And the panel condemned Nungesser’s use of “battlefield rhetoric” and verbal threats directed towards responders. The Boom Wars became so heated in Louisiana, that Nungesser “threatened to slash the tires of trucks carrying away protective boom.” The antics of Jindal and Nungesser, posed “a serious distraction that took time away from responders,” the report said.
You will recall during the early days of the oil disaster, Jindal was holding countless press conferences, planting himself in front of cameras constantly complaining about the Obama administration’s response and the lack of available resources. He said in May, “I think there could have been a greater sense of urgency” in Obama’s response.
But a scathing CBS report on Jindal’s incompetence in dealing with the oil disaster, pointed out that President Obama authorized up to 6,000 National Guard troops to help in cleanup efforts in Louisiana, but Jindal only managed to activate 1,053. CBS concluded that Jindal’s only accomplishment during the crisis was “pointing fingers.”
And the report of the National Oil Spill Commission, not only concurs with CBS’ assessment, but also finds that Jindal’s constant harping and grandstanding hampered federal response efforts for his state.
The commission pointed out that the unique structure of the National Contingency Plan used to respond to the spill, wherein the “federal government direct the response through a federal On-Scene Coordinator with the participation of the state through the Unified Command structure,” proved to be problematic from the start, because the Gulf states were unfamiliar with the system.
But Louisiana and its cast of characters, spearheaded by Gov. Jindal and parish president Billy Nungesser, caused untold problems and headaches for the federal response team.
Some key passages from the panel’s preliminary report:
“This unfamiliarity and discomfort with the federal response manifested itself in competing state structures, which undercut the efficiency of response efforts. This was particularly true in Louisiana. Governor Jindal’s advisors reportedly spent days determining whether the Stafford Act or the NCP applied. Louisiana declared a State of Emergency on April 29, 2010, authorizing the director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to undertake any legal activities deemed necessary to respond. Roland Guidry, the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator and the state’s pre-designated State On-Scene Coordinator, had reported to the Unified Command when summoned at the beginning of the spill. He was removed, however, from his duties at the Unified Area Command after approximately eleven days and Governor Jindal named himself State On-Scene Coordinator. No one else had the authority to speak for the state, so all decisions had to flow through the Governor’s office, which slowed decision-making and caused problems in the response efforts.
And as part of the Boom Wars, wherein state and local officials inexplicably measured the success of the federal response based on the quantity of boom allocated, again, Jindal and Nungesser were the worst offenders.
“Responders were frustrated with the time they spent laying what was, in their view, unnecessary boom. The Area Contingency Plan does not lay out a specific booming map, as the marshy coastal ecosystem frequently changes and any boom plan would be quickly out of date. Responders wanted to be able to direct the boom where they thought it most efficient and felt hampered by pressure to place boom everywhere. When the oiling risk was highest in Louisiana, the Coast Guard directed boom to Louisiana. They then heard complaints from the other states…” [...]
“Governor Jindal in Louisiana said at a press conference in mid-May 2010 that the supplies, including containment boom, provided by the Coast Guard and BP were inadequate. At the same time, local officials held up pictures of oil-coated birds. Governor Jindal said that he had requested 5 million feet of hard boom but had received only 786,185 feet, also referencing 143,000 feet of boom he said sat idle in staging areas.” [...]
“Once parishes had boom, they did not want to let it go. On July 22, 2010, President Nungesser, opposed the Coast Guard’s decision to began removing boom in preparation for Hurricane Bonnie. He threatened to slash the tires of trucks carrying away protective boom. He later explained that his statement was only a joke. Other parish presidents, either believing they had the authority or hoping to take that authority upon themselves, issued orders prohibiting response equipment from being moved out of the parish. Coast Guard responders were threatened with arrest if they moved equipment.”
“These problems were also a serious distraction that took time away from responders’ ability to focus on the spill. For example, because state and local officials wanted to be able to evaluate the response on their own terms, they measured the “feet of boom deployed,” a measurement that took time to compile but was of very little value in evaluating the effectiveness of response efforts.”
And on top of the Boom Wars, there was the demand for a sand berm that experts panned as a waste of time and money, but Jindal and Nungesser persisted.
“The tension surrounding the berm project reappeared a few weeks later when the federal government shut down the dredging activities on June 22, 2010, prompting President Nungesser to comment that “our government resource agencies, which are intended to protect us, are now leaving us vulnerable to the destruction of our coastline and marshes by the impending oil. “He evoked battlefield rhetoric, stating “we know we’re getting ready to fight a war over there,” and accusing the administration of limiting the tools for this fight.”‘
All in all, the commission’s report shows Jindal to be a grandstanding political hack, who was more concerned with his political fortunes then helping the people of his state, during one of the worst economic and environmental oil disasters in U.S. history.
CBS’ scathing expose of Jindal’s oil spill hypocrisy in June, concluded “Whether it’s simple confusion or the infusion of politics into the spill, the fact remains thousands of helping hands remain waiting to be used,” that Jindal ignored, while screeching that President Obama was withholding valuable resources from him.
All four of the commission’s working papers can be found here.
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons/Flickr/Karen Apricot/Phoenix, Louisiana, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser being interviewed by media regarding Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.
(Update: Despite his missteps during the BP oil disaster and his clownish hackery, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s name is frequently floated as a Republican presidential contender. Just yesterday, former Bush speech writer David Frum’s blog breathlessly praised Jindal, as “one of the country’s most capable governors,” having “a laser eye for details.” Blogger Tim Mak added, “In the wake of the BP oil spill, Governor Jindal’s aggressive response led to his approval among Louisianans soaring to 74%.”