Friday, June 18, 2010

State, Local governments frustrated with Federal response, take oil matters into their own hands

From Fox News:
Now that tar balls are washing ashore along the beaches of Okaloosa Island [in Florida], county commissioners say it's time to stop waiting for the federal government's Unified Command Center to approve closing its East Pass -- the area leading to the docks of the profitable fishing village in the town of Destin.

“Over the last 50 days," Okaloosa County Commissioner Chairman Wayne Harris told, "I like to say we played the game, if you will. We did what we were required to do, which was wait for all the permitting processes and wait for all the permission ....

"Over that period of time, it was obvious to us that somebody in those levels were not communicating with each other.”

Frustration started when the county devised a $9 million plan to implement an extensive boom system of barges and air curtains to close off all inlets and bayous from incoming oil. But the government rejected that proposal and began reducing the number of areas a system would protect. That, Harris says, is when the county decided to take matters into its own hands.

“We were getting the bureaucratic shuffle," he said. "We couldn’t wait for the bureaucratic process. We could not wait for indecisiveness.

"This is our county, and our people depend on us to make decisions.”

From the Daily Caller - June 15:
Florida’s Okaloosa county is telling the federal government it will no longer take orders in responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a decision made in response to the county’s deep frustration with the Obama administration’s response to the spill.

The county appears to be the first local government to openly flaunt the official response to the spill. Others, such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have complained bitterly of inaction and red tape regarding their response to the spill, but have thus far refrained from taking measures not approved by the federal or state authorities. Even Jindal, though, has become more assertive in the last day, ordering the National Guard to start building barrier islands off Lousiana’s coast.

Okaloosa’s decision and Jindal’s order could mark a new break between frustrated local authorities and the coordinated spill response.

County commissioner Wayne Harris said leaders of Okaloosa County are prepared to face any consequences for their renegade response. It’s that important, he said, to protect the county’s Choctawhatchee Bay, which is “too wonderful to destroy ecologically.”

"...We decided to be our own unified command. We have to stop it before it gets here,” Harris told The Daily Caller...

Harris said federal agencies... have repeatedly opposed Okaloosa’s plans for responding to the spill.

“Some of the plans we put together, every time we turn around one of the other agencies says, ‘No, you can’t do that,’” Harris said.

Further, the government’s response is clumsy. “The Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the EPA all these different agencies aren’t talking to each other,” Harris said. At one point, the Coast Guard “ran over” booms the county had put up to stop the oncoming oil, Harris said.

And while Okaloosa’s decision is a somewhat drastic step, Harris said it’s necessary in such dire circumstances.

“Our tourism, our tax base, we’re losing our shorts down here. We’re losing our jobs down here … Our government’s not doing anything to help us.”

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