Remember back when the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico was spewing a skabillion gallons of crude oil into the Gulf every minute? Back then, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour described the oil washing up on his state’s beaches as no worse than toothpaste.
Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Director Trudy Fisher said samples of what was apparently the same oil slick, taken when it was farther south of the barrier islands, were “nontoxic.” Fisher said water and weather had helped all the volatile chemicals in the oil evaporate. Barbour described the oil as “weathered, emulsified, caramel-colored mousse, like the food mousse.” “Once it gets to this stage, it’s not poisonous,” Barbour said. “But if a small animal got coated enough with it, it could smother it. But if you got enough toothpaste on you, you couldn’t breathe.” Barbour said he spoke with a member of President Barack Obama’s staff on Air Force One while he was on the island, after telling the administration in an early-morning conference call that oil had come ashore in Mississippi.
Well, today, he testified before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the state’s recovery from the BP oil spill and hammered the Obama administration’s response (pdf):
Unified Command, led by the U.S. Coast Guard and BP and involving the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA), set up the Florida, Alabama and Mississippi Command Center in Mobile,
Ala., and personnel from MDEQ, MDMR, and MEMA participated in that Command
Center. Unified Command was responsible for securing boom and skimming vessels and 2 allocating these assets across the region. Unified Command reviewed Mississippi’s plan and concurred that Mississippi, with its barrier island configuration, is uniquely set up to effectively defend itself against intruding oil if adequate defense assets are in place. In this case, oil skimming assets are the primary means of defense. Mississippi was assured that should oil approach Mississippi waters, adequate skimming assets would be made available.
When Mississippi was first impacted by oil in early June on Petit Bois Island, it was
obvious the Unified Command surveillance and defense capabilities fell far short of
meeting the Mississippi protection plan objectives. We found several major flaws with the multistate response attempt out of Mobile – communications in the Gulf among vessels and between vessels and aerial assets was poor; the time it took to approve Mississippi National Guard mission requests for oil surveillance was as long as two weeks; and skimming assets for the area off the Mississippi Coast were woefully inadequate. One example of note: the Mississippi Air National Guard has a reconnaissance airplane capable of taking still photos and fullmotion video. This plane became one of the most useful assets in the detection and subsequent skimming of oil. Rear Admiral Zukunft, the FOSC in New Orleans, called the aircraft “a game changer” and “worth its weight in gold” during his daily operations briefing on July 17. Yet, it took almost three weeks from the time we requested funding approval of the aircraft to the actual approval date of May 24.
Guess all that toothpaste was more of a problem than Governor Barbour was letting on back then, eh? Whatta hypocrite.