Spill Priorities

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By: Wayne Brown

The oil spewing to the surface in the Gulf continues to dominate the media as it should considering the time that has elapse since the initial blowout of the well some 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf waters. Opinions are freely given and fingers are pointed in all directions.


Chaos more often seems to be the order of the day based on the success achieved as we rapidly close toward the 50th day of the flow. The government is in charge, BP is responsible, citizens and coastal lands, ocean waters, and various wildlife families are the victims. Life is threatened as we know it. The economic reach is incalculable at this point and some have watched their futures start to melt away as the spill spreads to the coast.


No doubt, cooler heads need to prevail and the best solutions need to be uncovered as quickly as possible. While the government had claimed time and again to be “in charge” the actions that seem to surface with any urgency do not seem to be directly related to the immediate priorities of this disaster. For example, while this occurrence needs to at some point be reviewed in order to identify downstream potential improvements to our response methods for future situations, this is certainly not of the highest urgency.


Considering the President has already accepted the resignation of the person heading up the government agencies that watchdogs off-shore drilling, I find it rather ironic that he sees Carol Browner, his “energy czar” as the person who should logically head up such an exploration. A second example is the investigation launched by the U.S. Attorney General into the spill to determine if any criminal or civil laws were broken. Both of these agendas were launched and announced as if such actions would bring great solace to the American public. In actuality, the American public would like to see some urgent actions going forth that directly address the emergency at hand. We can hold the hanging at a more convenient date in the future.


When Haiti was recently hit with a high magnitude earthquake, support for the suffering poured forth from all sectors in America. In this situation, I have seen little of that outpouring even though many people in south Louisiana are already suffering due to loss of their livelihood in the fishing and seafood industries.


Hollywood actors lined up to get their names in the news and faces on the screen in the Haiti emergency. They worked to raise money, to create an air of the dire conditions in the country, and to do everything in their power to help the people of Haiti. That was a great and admirable effort on their part but where are they now when people right here in America are becoming victims of the largest single environmental disaster in the history of this country. Where are they now? Are there not enough camera and photo-ops in the area? One can only guess. At the same time, I have heard nothing out of government officials encouraging organizations around the country to lend a helping hand in any way they possibly can.


Whether it is clear to our government officials or not, there must be some hard and fast priorities to be addressed in this disaster. Everything else that does not meet that muster can be put on the back burner so to speak but the focus stays on the priorities. The number 1 priority is to stop the flow on that well. That is not a priority we quality with a “but”. The priority is to shut down the well. We cannot approach this like a patient who is bleeding to death but no one wants to discuss removing his arm to save his life. We seem more focused on salvaging the arm than saving the life. Get off your eco-enviro horse long enough to realize that we already have an environmental disaster here. I have heard references from some government officials to indicate that red tape associated with infringing on other environmental areas might be a bit off limits in considering solutions to shutting down this well. From my perspective, that is one huge qualify “but” being thrown in the way of potential success.


Secondly, are there efforts which can be carried out on a parallel basis which will not diminish the primary focus of getting the flow out of this well shut off? Certainly, containment and initiation of clean up efforts in areas that are already affected come to mind very quickly. We need to be moving on those efforts and making sure we are employing the best methodology and processes available today. This project does not have a budget as some might want to assign.


Thirdly, what is the scope of the expertise involved? Are we using all the resources available to either the USA or BP to identify viable solutions and methods? Time is of the essence here, we don’t need to wait for someone to volunteer. We need to be asking the question frequently and loudly. For those who have the credentials, expertise, and desire to help, make way for them and use them effectively.


Lastly, there is a priority to communicate effectively as to what has been done, what is being done, what will be done. The time for arguing the point, point the finger, washing the laundry and conjuring up votes for the next election is long since past and never had a place in this arena from the very beginning. This is not a partisan effort and this is not time for partisan politics in terms of blame.


The American people will eventually make up their own mind about this situation and they, in their own perceptions, will lay the blame at someone’s door. Then they will cast their votes. Report the facts and make sure they are factual. Get them out to the people. Sometimes you have to cut down trees and let people hear them fall before they will believe you are working. Just be damn sure you cut the right trees before you swing the axe. Effective communications could have likely avoided a significant portion of the issues which are being thrown around to this day on this matter.


The American people are watching. They are looking for those individuals in this process who will make an honest assessment and take some effective actions. They recognize tap-dancing and bull-crap when the see it. Get over the idea of assigning blame, defending blame, and get to work on the problem at hand. Once America sees that happening, the applause will be forthcoming. Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way! God Bless America!

© Copyright WBrown2010. All Rights Reserved.

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