On Second Thought Please Help

Jim Brown
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He Obama administration initially turned down offers of help from more than 30 countries when the BP oil spill first occurred. After getting low marks for his handling of the spill the president has reconsidered that lack of action.

More than 30 countries offered to help with the spill and that included manpower and specialized equipment. They also offered skimmers, booms, chemicals and dispersants. Some of the countries had specialized knowledge, experience and equipment to handle large oil spills. Instead of accepting this assistance the administration chose a "go it alone" approach even though the U.S. had no experience and no equipment outside of booms.

Fast forward 72 days into the never ending spill and the administration has been forced to swallow their pride and accept help. And can you please hurry?

State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said in this week's announcement that in fact some help had been accepted although unannounced. According to Crowley 24 foreign vessels were currently operating in the region and nine other countries had provided booms, skimmers and "other assistance." This sounds like an attempt to cover over the original refusal of assistance.

Assistance has now been accepted from Canada, Mexico, Croatia, the Netherlands, Norway and Japan along with two maritime groups operated by the European Commission. Mexico, Norway, the Netherlands and Japan are providing skimmers and Canada is providing containment boom. Croatia is lending technical advice.

Help from France was declined because dispersant chemicals offered are not approved for use in the USA. Instead we are using the highly toxic and cancer causing pesticide Corexit as a dispersant.

All countries offering help are expecting to be paid for their help with the exception of Mexico. Mexico supplied some free containment boom.

This is a link to a PDF that outlines how each country has volunteered to help. Country Outline

Only three days into the disaster the Dutch group offered ships uniquely equipped to handle a large spill along with personnel to operate them. The spokesman for the Spill Response Group, Holland, said each Dutch chip had more capacity than all the ships combined that the U.S. had operating at the time. Their ships can each handle 400 cubic meters per hour.

The Dutch also offered to prepare a plan for protecting Louisiana's marshlands with sand barriers. One Dutch research institute specializing in costal areas and rivers has developed a strategy to begin building 60 mile long sand dikes within three weeks. Obviously the Dutch know a few things about dikes and water management.

In the event of an oil spill, The Netherlands government, which owns its own ships and high-tech skimmers, gives an oil company 12 hours to demonstrate it has the spill in hand. If the company shows signs of unpreparedness, the government dispatches its own ships at the oil company's expense. "If there's a country that's experienced with building dikes and managing water, it's the Netherlands," says Geert Visser, the Dutch consul general in Houston.

Unlike the U.S. the Dutch have prepared for this type of emergency and were prepared to immediately send these ships to the gulf. They have experience in this type of cleanup and mitigation. Even though the Dutch government offered the ships and crew "at no charge" the U.S. refused their help.

Now the U.S. has relented and took the Dutch up on their offer but with conditions. The U.S. said no Dutch ships could operate in the gulf so the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the gulf and then retrofitted it to the U.S. vessels. Rather than having experienced Dutch crews operating the oil-skimming equipment the U.S. postponed the actual operation of the retrofitted ships until union workers could be hired and trained.

They finally accepted the Dutch offer to help build the sand berms but again they would only let the Dutch train U.S. workers and again several weeks were lost. According to the Dutch embassy in Washington, Dutch dredging ships could complete the berms in Louisiana twice as fast as the U.S. companies awarded the contracts to do the work. Those contracts to firms with union workers were to build the berms for a price where the Dutch offered to do it for free.

The audacity of the administration in refusing free experienced help in order to hire union workers for a massive fee is unbelievable. It will be a wonder if we ever get the oil cleaned up and another miracle if BP is still a going concern when it is over.

Jim Brown

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