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U.S. Accepts International Assistance for Oil Spill

12:22 PM, Jun 30, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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On June 15, ABC News again reported on international assistance, finding that the State Department had sent two missives looking for specific help in the Gulf after first announcing May 5 it did not need help. By that time, the U.S. had accepted assistance from four countries — Mexico, Norway, Canada, the Netherlands.

On May 13 the first notice went out from the embassies asking countries (and companies) if they had ocean boom. Again on June 10 the US asked if countries have 18-24 inch containment boom and fireboom. The State Department says it has received some responses and they’re sending those on to the Unified Area Command, who will ultimately decide what is needed. Today the department said it had been told by the International Maritime Organization that it had located boom in 10 countries, including Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, Kenya, Norway, Spain, and Tunisia.

The first notice was sent just days after the US first said it did not need any assistance from other countries in containing the spill, which had not yet reached shore.

“While there is no need right now that the U.S. cannot meet, the U.S. Coast Guard is assessing these offers of assistance to see if there will be something which we will need in the near future,” the State Department said in a statement on May 5.

I'm sure the State Department would argue that it simply took time to evaluate and inventory the resources offered by different countries and organizations and implemented them as quickly and effectively as possible. Certainly, in a large crisis, you don't want redundant or incompetent help from other countries clogging up your response. But some of the chief complaints of local governments and workers have been insufficient boom and skimmers, which seem to be exactly what many of these foreign entities are offering, so I'm skeptical that the State Department was entirely on its game, here.

The Heritage Foundation offers two rather simple ways (on a list of 10) that Obama could help with the Gulf by simply lifting bureaucratic barriers to the clean up:

7. Waive or Suspend EPA Regulations: Because more water than oil is collected in skimming operations (85% to 90% is water according to Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen), operators need to discharge the filtered water back into the Gulf so they can continue to collect oil.  The discharged water is vastly cleaner than when it was skimmed, but not sufficiently pure according to normal EPA regulations.  If the water has to be kept in the vessel and taken back to shore for purification, it vastly multiples the resources and time needed, requiring cleanup ships to make extra round trips, transporting seven times as much water as the oil they collect.  We already have insufficient cleanup ships (as the Coast Guard officially determined); they need to be cleaning up oil, not transporting water. For more information, click here.

8. Temporarily Loosen Coast Guard Inspections: In early June, sixteen barges that were vacuuming oil out of the Gulf were ordered to halt work. The Coast Guard had the clean-up vessels sit idle as they were inspected for fire extinguishers and life vests. Maritime safety is clearly a priority, but speed is of the essence in the Gulf waters. The U.S. Coast Guard should either temporarily loosen its inspection procedures or implement a process that allows inspections to occur as the ships operate. For more information, click here.

There's nothing that can get in the way of common sense like a government regulator. It's unclear whether the EPA rule is actually causing a delay with the A-Whale. There have been conflicting reports about the EPA's environmental concerns about the vessel, and the EPA did not respond with a comment for The Daily Caller today. Whatever the problem is, let's hope the A-Whale is ready for service and on the sea before long.

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