WSJ Lays Out The Differences Between Katrina And BP Responses

Paul H. Rubin, professor of economics at Emory University, does a great job in comparing and contrasting the federal responses to the two disasters as they relate to two presidents, though, I do think he forgot one point, which I’ll get to. First, some background

In many respects, the Deepwater Horizon disaster and Katrina are mirror images of each other. The harm from Katrina was on state land—mainly Louisiana, but also Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. As a result, President George W. Bush and the federal government were limited in what they could do. For example, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wanted to take command of disaster relief on the day before landfall, but Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco refused. Federal response was hindered because the law gave first authority to state and local authorities.

State and local efforts—particularly in New Orleans, and Louisiana more broadly—interfered with what actions the federal government could actually take. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was late in ordering an evacuation and did not allow the use of school buses for evacuation, which could have saved hundreds of lives. President Bush had no power to change that decision.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is on federal offshore territory. The federal government has primary responsibility for handling the situation, while state and local governments remain limited in what they can do. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly changed its mind regarding the chemical dispersants that Louisiana is allowed to use. In the Florida Panhandle, Okaloosa County officials voted to disregard any restrictions from higher branches of government and allow its own emergency management team to do what it views as best, such as creating an underwater “air curtain” of bubbles to push oil to the surface, and using barges to block the oil once it rises. They believe that the federal government is undermining their efforts.

As opposed to Katrina, state and local attempts to address the oil spill have been hindered by an ineffectual and chaotic federal response.

Paul then gets into the differences in the responses by the Coast Guard, the way that Bush almost immediately suspended the Jones Act while Obama has yet to do so, and how the media attacked Bush beyond belief, yet are, for the most part, gently chiding Obama for his handling of this.

Mr. Bush was a Republican, and elected Democrats controlled Louisiana and New Orleans, the main victims of Katrina. Many claimed Mr. Bush neglected New Orleans for this reason. Mr. Obama is a Democrat, and the states affected by Deepwater Horizon—Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida—all have Republican governors. I have not seen anyone, even on the right, claim that the ineffectual response of the Obama administration is due to partisan politics.

I should hope no one will claim the Obama response is due to partisan politics. There are two reasons the response has been “ineffectual.” First, I think we can guess that Obama wants the spill to be worse, and continue on till he can get cap and tax passed. Second, let’s face it, Obama is incompetent, and he has surrounded himself with mostly people who have no idea what to do and/or are incompetent. Let me ask, when is the last time you heard Janet Napolitano, the Director of Homeland Security, discuss the BP Spill? The Washington Post is asking, too, as well as wondering where Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is.

In the two days right after Katrina landfall, President Bush spent only a little time discussing it. He was focused on Medicare and the Iraqi Constitution. We obviously cannot read his mind, but, after eight years of watching the man, I would suspect that he expected the same type of competence happening on Alabama and Mississippi to happen in lower Louisiana, particularly in New Orleans. He probably hadn’t expect Mayor Nagin to order a late evacuation, fail to use the school bus plan, and blow off the use of Amtrak trains. I bet he didn’t expect Louisiana officials to deny the Red Cross access, as well. Nor the unbelievable looting and violence. This is not to say the response by the Federal government was great, but, at least by day three they were trying. They were engaged. They couldn’t exactly pre-position the number of people and aid needed when 1. there was a monster hurricane coming, and even 48 hours out there was some doubt where it would hit, plus, hurricanes are BIG, and 2. they did not know what the exact damage would be.

As for Obama, really, they have been barely engaged, other than in a pissing match over who is in charge, who’s “ass to kick,” and who can appear better in the press.

Crossed at Right Wing News and Stop The ACLU

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7 Responses to “WSJ Lays Out The Differences Between Katrina And BP Responses”

  1. John Ryan says:

    Thousands died in New Orleans because the levees broke. The levees are a Federal Responsibility.

  2. John Ryan says:

    First it’s “Drill Baby Drill” and now it’s “We Don’t like the way you are cleaning up the big mess that was bound to happen”

  3. gitarcarver says:

    The levees are a Federal Responsibility.

    SOME of the levees were a Federal responsibility in their construction and maintenance. Others were a Federal responsibility only in their construction. It was up to the New Orleans Board of Levees to maintain them.

    Even assuming that you are right (you aren’t, but I’ll play along) that the Feds were responsible for the levees, your “point” illustrates exactly what many of us have said – the Federal government is bloated, incompetent at the local level, and slow to act.

    Thanks for playing.

    First it’s “Drill Baby Drill” and now it’s “We Don’t like the way you are cleaning up the big mess that was bound to happen”

    First its “drive baby drive,” and then there are people who get killed on the highways by truckers like yourself.

    Let’s be clear hear, Ryan, drilling and the cleanup have nothing to do with each other. There have been over 3000 wells in the Gulf with nary an incident. No oil company wants to drill in mile deep water. The technical difficulties are immense. BP wanted to drill closer to land where something like this would have been easily averted. However, it was the Feds that prevented them from doing it. While BP’s emergency plans were clearly clearly inadequate, the Feds approved the plans.

    BP will change to not be as lax. This administration will add another layer of bureaucracy to insure their incompetence will continue.

    The contrast between BP and the Feds is striking. BP has told state and local governments that they will pay for whatever cleanup is needed. The Feds have continually blocked the local efforts.

    BP has actively attacked the spill. The Feds have actively hampered all efforts.

  4. Trish says:

    It was Bush’ fault.
    Oh, and the fault of every LA politician who had anything to do with appropriations of the massive amounts of federal dollars that were intended for, yet never or only partly got to the levees projects.
    Oh, and the fault of the mayor and governor of that state, for accepting as inevitable that there would just be a certain amount of folks who would not leave NOLA. BS! Get those damn school buses on the roads, and force the idiots onto them. Nagin was too busy checking in his freezer for the loot to bring out with him when he evacuated!

  5. Kevin says:

    Mr. Ryan your statement isn’t quite true.
    People died because they didn’t leave the area where a CAT 5 hurricane was headed. Also, the levees are not the responsibility of the federal government but they were the responsibility of the local levee boards which was also n charge of day-to-day inspection and maintenance of the levee systems in their areas. While the United States Army Corps of Engineers provided supervision and control of design and construction of flood control throughout the Mississippi Valley, they were not and are not in control of daily operations.

    Since the 1960’s it has been known that the levees around New Orleans would not hold against anything over a CAT 3 hurricane and that there were much need improvements that needed to be done. There have been 8 presidential administrations in control of the White House prior to Hurricane Katrina and while upgrades where started many times completion of was stopped. Back in the 70’s the Corps of Engineers proposed building fortifications at two strategic locations that would have withstood the fury of a Category 5 hurricane which were put on hold as environmental advocates successfully sued to stop the projects as too damaging to the wetlands and the lake’s eco-system. So the problems caused by a natural disaster where not made by the failure of the federal government but the failure of people at the local and state levels.

    Personal safety starts with personal responsibility. Before you start in with the “you don’t know what it’s like to live though” statement let me say that in my life I’ve been through 2 hurricanes, earthquakes in California and Alaska, ran for the hills from a tsunami and hid in a basement as a tornado ripped apart my home. While we’ve lost many items and some non-replaceable, we came away each time with what’s most important…our lives. We also didn’t sit around waiting for someone to tell us what to do or when to do it, we used our personal freedom to make personal decisions that affected our personal safety. Maybe the people in New Orleans should have done the same, rather than wait for the local and state government to save them…which it didn’t.

    “Drill Baby Drill”
    Yes, this leak sucks but it’s in federal waters and it is the responsibility of the federal government, which doesn’t seem to have done everything it could to help clean up the resulting mess. As for “Drill Baby Drill”, I’m still very much in favor of it. We as a nation depend on oil and until we can come up with a reliable energy source, we need oil to continue our way of life. There are things we can do to lessen our need of oil but not completely remove it. The environmentalists fight over what should and can be done as far as solar farms and windmills and they themselves are prevent much of this from becoming a reality, which doesn’t help with using less oil. These same environmentalist that now scream about the spill are the reason these companies drill in 5000 ft. of water, had this well been in 250 ft. not only could a relief well been drilled in a week but the possibility of fixing it would have been much greater and easier.

    So who’s to blame…how about those that continues to make it harder for us with all their little fears and provides nothing in return. I have pushed for Nuclear power for over 30 years and yet we haven’t built to meet our needs because of environmental fears or the NIMBY affect. My family uses solar for our hot water, live within 5 miles of a nuclear power plant and 1 mile of a LNG storage facility, so I’m not asking others to do what I don’t. My wife and I took a pay cuts to telecommute and lower our fuel use and we conserve as we can but I’m not going to move back to the 1920’s because of others fears when they themselves are doing less than I am. I hear far too often the likes of Al Gore, Harrison Ford and others talk about saving the planet all the while living and using more fossil fuels in a month than I do in a year.

    May be you’d like to explain, rather than just post random rants, on what you do and what you think should be done. I tend to find people like you yell and scream but never really support the issues they so demand from the rest of us.

  6. Trish says:

    Nicely done Kevin!
    I’d like to add one thing that people seem to miss on the issue of drilling; it’s not only fuel we refine from the oil but there are also many products that are made with petroleum, that we wouldn’t be able to do without!

  7. Otter says:

    Thousands, ‘lil LIAR johnnie ryan? Thousands?

    Present us with a link proving that claim.

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