If US 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. The problem: The federal government did not have a single fire boom on hand.
The "In-Situ Burn" plan produced by federal agencies in 1994 calls for responding to a major oil spill in the Gulf with the immediate use of fire booms. But in order to conduct a successful test burn eight days after the Deepwater Horizon well began releasing massive amounts of oil into the Gulf, officials had to purchase one from a company in Illinois.
When federal officials called, Elastec/American Marine, shipped the only boom it had in stock, Jeff Bohleber, chief financial officer for Elastec, said today. At federal officials' behest, the company began calling customers in other countries and asking if the US government could borrow their fire booms for a few days, he said.
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, US 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.
Editor's Note: If we are to be fair -- and with all the commotion over offshore drilling the past two years, we have to ask the head of the EPA, Lisa P. Jackson why her agency hadn't confirmed that these safety systems were in place. In the end, the buck stops with the Environmental Protection Agency on this one. Perhaps if Jackson wasn't so busy trying to classify CO2 (or exhaled air) as a pollutant to further the scam commonly referred to as "global warming," she would have had more time to do her job...you know, the one they are supposed to do! Jackson must be held accountable for the failure of the federal government's response.