Eight days ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered barges to begin vacuuming crude oil out of his state's oil-soaked waters. Today, against the governor's wishes, those barges sat idle, even as more oil flowed toward the Louisiana shore.
"It's the most frustrating thing," the Republican governor said today in Buras, La. "Literally, yesterday morning we found out that they were halting all of these barges."
Sixteen barges sat stationary today, although they were sucking up thousands of gallons of BP's oil as recently as Tuesday. Workers in hazmat suits and gas masks pumped the oil out of the Louisiana waters and into steel tanks. It was a homegrown idea that seemed to be effective at collecting the thick gunk.
"These barges work. You've seen them work. You've seen them suck oil out of the water," said Jindal.
Surely there was an excellent reason to halt this effort, right?
So why stop now?That's great, Lt. Cmdr. Lauer. So what was the reason?
"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.'"
A Coast Guard representative told ABC News today that it shares the same goal as the governor.
"We are all in this together. The enemy is the oil," said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Lauer.
But the Coast Guard ordered the stoppage because of reasons that Jindal found frustrating. The Coast Guard needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, and then it had trouble contacting the people who built the barges.Now, that might seem outrageous to you, but there is historical precedent for such a thing. I can't link to this because it's only available on microfiche, but here's a report from London Daily Mail, dated May 29, 1940:
DUNKIRK, FRANCE (Reuters): Efforts to continue the evacuation of Allied Forces hit a snag today when 375 of an estimated 700 small commercial boats that have formed a makeshift flotilla to aid in the evacuation were ordered back to England. British Home Secretary officials indicated that the boats were ordered to return because they were unable to verify that they had sufficient supplies of ring buoys and non-flammable blankets on board their vessels.Well, Dunkirk worked out okay despite all that, so I guess we shouldn't really be so hard on these guys. OSHA regs are a life vest to them.
"We are all in this together. The enemy is the Germans," said the unnamed senior Home Secretary official. "Still, we have these these safety regulations in place for a reason and we need to verify compliance before we can entrust someone to participate in an evacuation."