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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Federal Law Makes Obama Responsible for Stopping Oil Spill and Cleanup

Fingerpointing at BP ignores federal law!

It's day 51 in the Gulf Oil Disaster and oil continues to gush from the "cap" British Petroleum placed to stop the leak. (Here's the live feed of the camera at the leak site.) BP now says that "virtually all" of the leak may be stopped in the next few days. Obama has timed another visit to the region. No doubt to claim credit.

Yet, over the last weeks Obama and his left wing allies have been desperate to point fingers at Bush, Cheney, BP, Halliburton, Transocean and in at least one case "tea baggers."

So, perhaps it's time to have a little reminder about what Obama's responsibilities are. The Clean Water Act Section 311 - Oil and Hazardous Substances Liability grants the president broad powers and also responsibility to stop any discharge of oil and to direct any cleanup. The president's powers and responsibilities are referenced 47 times in the brief document.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 further strengthened the President's powers and responsibility. The Bureau of Land Management offers this analysis:

The OPA amended §311to mandate the President to take action to ensure “effective and immediate removal of a discharge, and mitigation or prevention of a substantial threat of a discharge, of oil or a hazardous substance.”
The purpose of the amendment was to remove some of the latitude towards private cleanup efforts by the discharger and assure that the job gets done right. It's the primary responsibility of the President to see that the leak is stopped and that any cleanup is swift and effective.

The President has sole responsibility for developing and implementing emergency plans to address a spill. Yet, we have already seen how the Obama Administration failed to implement long standing disaster plans by delaying a burnoff of oil and other measures.

On May 27, Obama held his first formal press conference in nearly a year. In that conference he claimed that this crisis "is what I wake to in the morning and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about." He also claimed he was doing everything he could to stop the leak and clean up the mess. Jake Tapper asked him about that:

You say that everything that could be done is being done, but there are those in the region and those industry experts who say that’s not true. Governor Jindal obviously had this proposal for a barrier. They say that if that had been approved when they first asked for it, they would have 10 miles up already. There are fishermen down there who want to work, who want to help, haven’t been trained, haven’t been told to go do so. There are industry experts who say that they’re surprised that tankers haven’t been sent out there to vacuum, as was done in ’93 outside Saudi Arabia. And then, of course, there’s the fact that there are 17 countries that have offered to help and it’s only been accepted from two countries, Norway and Mexico. How can you say that everything that can be done is being done with all these experts and all these officials saying that’s not true?
Obama has ignored many of the cleanup actions Tapper referenced and instead has focused on projecting his anger at BP's slow efforts. Obama continues to shirk his own responsibility under federal law to direct and manage the containment of this leak and the cleanup effort.

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