San Francisco Examiner Editorial: Man-made disaster another blow to Louisiana

June 14, 2010
 
Residents of the Bayou State may be forgiven for wondering what they’ve done to deserve this: In the past five years, they’ve been slammed by four of the worst natural disasters ever recorded, hurricanes Katrina, Ike, Gustav and Rita.

Now with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill at BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform 53 miles off Louisiana’s coast, Washington, D.C., politicians and bureaucrats are inflicting on them a man-made disaster of epic proportions. The degree of official mismanagement seen so far in the 54 days since the platform exploded, killing 11 workers, is truly mind-boggling.

As soon as it became clear the explosion created a spill capable of pouring thousands of barrels of raw crude into the Gulf, foreign governments began offering aid to the United States. Three days after the explosion, the Netherlands offered to send ships capable of skimming oil off the water and submitted a plan to begin building sand dikes to protect the many environmentally fragile marshes along the Gulf Coast.

“The Embassy got a nice letter from the administration that said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” Geert Visser, consul general for the Netherlands in Houston, told the Houston Chronicle. Only now, seven weeks and millions of spilled barrels of crude later, Washington has finally emergency-airlifted four of the booms from the Netherlands to be fitted to U.S. vessels.

As for the sand dikes, which Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has been begging Washington for weeks for permission to build, the bureaucrats finally approved construction of a tiny portion of the total requested. But taking advantage of the Netherlands’ vast experience in building such devices is difficult because of the Jones Act, a protectionist U.S. law that requires all goods transported by water between domestic ports to use U.S. owned, flagged and built ships with U.S. crews.

The law was waived by the Bush administration during Katrina, but it’s still in force, preventing Dutch ships from entering U.S. coastal waters and precluding Dutch contractors, who have vast experience building dikes, from displacing U.S. dredging firms that don’t. One of the Dutch companies has a plan to erect 60 miles of dikes on the Louisiana coast within three weeks. Washington had that plan in hand for nearly two months before acting on it last week.

Devastating hurricanes like Katrina are unpreventable natural events. But man-made catastrophes created by Big Government’s bureaucratic incompetence, regulatory inefficiency and political infighting, don’t have to occur. How much more damage has to be inflicted on the people, economy and environment of Louisiana before Washington gets the message?

sfexaminer

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