George LeMieux (R-FL) scolded President Barack Obama from the Senate floor yesterday, telling Obama that it wasn’t just oil washing up on the shores of the Gulf; it’s failure. On Day 71 of the crisis, LeMieux noted that then-Senator Obama had a lot to say about George Bush and his response to Hurricane Katrina, including a focus on “half-hearted measures.” LeMieux also noted that Obama seems more interested in traveling around the nation and giving speeches crabbing about Republicans than in doing the job for which he campaigned two years ago. “This is his job,” LeMieux insisted about the Gulf crisis, “not Ken Salazar’s”:
Immediately after this speech, LeMieux joined me for an exclusive interview on The Ed Morrissey Show to talk about the status of the Gulf cleanup. He noted some incremental improvements in the number of skimmers operating in the area, but was aghast at the bureaucratic red tape that has kept the A-Whale on the sidelines for so long. LeMieux blasted the administration’s inability to bypass the EPA or even to attempt cutting through its red tape to mitigate the environmental catastrophe. As for leadership, it sounds as though chaos is still the norm, and states still feel on their own:
Check back later; I’ll have a full transcript in this post by the end of the day.
Update: Here’s the transcript, courtesy of Amy the Intern:
Q: It’s great to be speaking with Senator George LeMieux who is joining us just after delivering a speech on the senate floor. Welcome back to the Ed Morrissey Show, sir.
A: Thank you very much for having me on, Ed.
Q: Well, its great to speak with you, and last time we talked you were very unhappy about the response in the Gulf from the federal government. What’s changed since the last time we spoke?
A: Well we made some progress but not enough. The progress that we’ve made is that the federal government has finally woken up a little and has issued an order to release skimmers that are around the country. There are some 2000 skimmers around the country. And the coast guard and the environmental protection agency on Monday issued an executive order which allows those skimmers, who may be required to be in certain ports, to make their way to the Gulf. Now we’ll see what happens. We’ll see if they actually make it there. And through my office we’re monitoring that situation and calling these various ports and seeing that the skimmers are hopefully on their way. That’ll be a big help. That’s half the issue. The other half of the issue is on the foreign side, whether or not these skimmers from other countries that have been offered are gonna be put to use. We’ve already lost a bunch of them. I’ve been talking about this one ship, the Swan, which was offered by a Dutch company on May 6th, that had the capacity to soak up 20,000 tons of oil and water mixture a day, that we did not get back to them, we never answered the call and they sent the ship someplace else. There is now a huge ship called a whale, the world’s largest skimmer. And that ship has gone to the Gulf of Mexico on its own accord. The Taiwanese owners have sent it even though there’s no guarantee it’ll be used. And hopefully we’ll get it put to work in the next couple of days. It is such a massive ship and has such capability that it could suck up at least 250 times that of what’s being sucked up by these kind of modified fishing boats which are currently skimming. 500,000 barrels of oily water per 8-10-hour cycle. You know, why these resources weren’t requested and called upon earlier, why we did not answer the call to all of these offers of foreign assistance, it makes no sense to me whatsoever. But at least we’re starting to see some progress. Let’s hope it comes to fruition.
Q: Senator LeMieux, you know the big problem with a whale and some of these is others is that they don’t pass EPA standards. They haven’t been extensively tested by the federal government. Because they might discharge oily water in to the Gulf of Mexico.
A: Isn’t that the most preposterous thing you’ve ever heard?
Q: It is absolutely absurd!
A: You know their gonna suck up oily water, take out 90, 95% of it, some may get discharged back and their gonna say, “Oh you’re discharging oil, we need to give you a permit, you have to apply for a permit”. What a bunch of b.s. right? It makes no sense at all.
Q: It’s like there’s no sense of urgency, in this, it’s like there’s no sense of emergency in this. I was living in Southern California, originally a Southern California boy. I was living in Southern California in the 1994 earthquake, the Northridge earthquake and it destroyed vital freeways. If you’ve ever been in LA you know how vital the freeways are. And these were major arteries that were out of commission and they would have been out of commission for two or three years had they followed the government regulation in rebuilding them. Instead, the state of california understood that there was an emergency going on and they removed all of these regulatory road blocks and just asked private companies to get these things built as fast as possible. Three months later they’re fixed. I mean, that’s the type of thing you expect governments to do when there’s an emergency like that. Do you see that sort of response in the Gulf, even right now?
A: No I don’t and its just all slow to come. And its only when, you know, we have meetings with the president and that we really raise this topic as much I and others have raised it, that you see any movement at all. There is no sense of urgency, I just, I can’t understand it. You know, this is not a republican or democrat issue. These are people who are suffering. You know, for God-sakes you would think a that democratic administration would do everything it could to protect the environment, let alone jobs when we’re having such difficult employment issues in this country. But there hasn’t been a sense of urgency, and you know frankly its just terribly disappointing. And its also disappointing in light of the fact that the president’s in wisconsin today giving a political speech, talking about why republicans are responsible for all the problems in this country, according to him. When he should be down in the Gulf, trying to make sure we have all the resources we available to solve the problem that we have.
Q: Well that’s another issue, its a completely different issue in Wisconsin where the export/import bank ended up canceling a loan guarrantee that is going to cost Wisconsin and some other upper midwestern states about a thousand jobs thanks to Barak Obama’s policies on climate change. But that’s a different topic. I want to stay on where we’re at right here. Last time we talked you talked about the leadership, you talked about the fact that it didn’t seem like anybody was in charge. Has that changed? Has there been an improvement in the chain of command to where it looks like things are getting better organized down there?
A: Well, like I said before, they’re starting to do things. They executed this executive order on Monday. Hopefully that’s going to start bringing more domestic ships. They have now said that they are going to accept more foreign ships and they came out with a statement yesterday saying that they were going to accept 22 offers of assistance from 12 countries. That’s great–it shouldn’t have taken 70 days to do that. So I think things are improving, but we’ve suffered a lot of damage since that time. We’ve suffered a lot of heartache, loss of compensation, loss of people’s belief in what their federal government can do for them. I mean, look, I’m not a big government guy, I don’t believe the government should be intruding on our lives, I think that we need a lot less government. But what government does it should do well and everybody believes, I think, that in a circumstance like this, this is what the federal government should do. This is a situation that’s beyond a small locality or even a state. This is an issue that affects the nation. And for those who want to grow the size of government and think government’s the answer, you know you would at least hope in the long area that we all agree that the government should be able to achieve some good results, that they would get those results achieved and we’re not seeing that in this oil spill. So, I am very frustrated, you can sense my frustration. I’ve gone to the floor of the senate every day for the last couple weeks to bring light and attention to this and I think we have. And I think we’ve moved the dye a little bit by holding some pressure, you know, upon this administration. But more really needs to be done and when I go down to Pensacola like I have done 4 or 5 times now, and down into Northwest Florida and talked to our local officials and talk to people who live and work along the coastline there, they’re just brokenhearted and I hate to see it. I hate to see it in their eyes, I hate to hear it in their voices and its a big deal for us down there. And this is not just going to be something that affects Florida for weeks and months to come, its gonna have years of impact and this government really needs to do a better job of responding to this crisis. And it shows a lack of care, a lack of executive competence, a lack of urgency and its just very frustrating for those of us who live on the Gulf.
Q: You know, the oil drilling moratorium in that region is something that is not terribly popular there, I mean even though you’re seeing a massive spill as a result of a damaged well head here and an inability of people to repair it. You take a look at the people whose livelihoods depend on maintaining a good economy down there in the Gulf and they want to see drilling continue down there. What are you hearing about the moratorium that the Obama administration wants to put in place, that a judge rejected–they’re gonna come back with another reworded moratorium. What’s your position on that, and should we be stopping all of the drilling down there or should we just be taking care of one thing at a time?
A: Well I think we have to have a balanced approach. The moratorium, I can tell you that both the republican and the democratic senator from Louisiana are very much against this because its hurting the way of life. And they claim, and I believe its true, that the moratorium is hurting Louisiana more than the oil spill is in terms of putting people out of work . So i think you have to be very careful, I mean its easy to respond to something like this and say, “Ok we’re not going to do any more drilling. We’re not going to drill for oil anymore off the coast of the United States.” But we’re not in a position economically or for our energy needs to be able to stop drilling. Now I’m told we have 4,000 some well heads around the United States of America. We rely upon that oil to move about the country, to conduct our business, to live our way of life, to pursue happiness, and there just isn’t an alternative right now. NOw should be moving toward electric cars, like my friend momar alexander wants to do, and should we be moving towards natural gas propelled cars like I understand Argentina has had a lot of success with, sure we should and we should be doing all of those things. I mean I want to get us off foreign oil, I think its an existential threat to this country that we send hundreds of billions of dollars overseas to people who don’t like us, people who fund terrorism. I had a military veteran, a general tell me that this is the first war since the civil war , our war in Afghanistan and Iraq where we are funding both sides of the war. And It think its a salient point So, I’m a big believer in getting us off foreign oil and i’m a big believer in developing clean energy in this country that will create good jobs, but right now we’re not in a position to stop drilling for oil. It’s gonna take time to do that and we should not just throw out this moratorium because it makes some politicians feel good, it needs to be done in a careful way. I want to know what happened to this trans-ocean rig, I want to know why we had disaster happened, I want to do whatever we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But we need to be thoughtful about it.
Q: Speaking of being thoughtful about it and the reasons why. There’s an effort in the house, and I don’t know if you’ve even had a chance to see this Senator LeMieux, but there’s an effort in the house to regulate deepwater drilling by basically saying that companies have to guarantee that blowout preventers will work and if they don’t they guarantee a plan to stop wells from leaking. Now this sounds like a common sense approach, but the practical implications of this is that basically it’s going to block anyone from drilling in deep water because nothing is 100% fool proof especially at 5,000 feet. That’s a tough question because you want things to be safe, you want the drilling to not cause these types of disasters. And you would hope that companies would have what my friend Bruce McClain at QNO calls a “go to hell plan”, when things go to hell. But on the other hand, you don’t want to necessarily increase regulation to the point where nobody can actually get anything done. Have you heard about this, Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, I believe, are the ones actually pushing this in the house.
A: Now I haven’t heard about this specifically, but you’ve got it right. We’ve got to have a balance. These companies need to have a plan in case we have another disaster or to prevent a disaster from happening and we didn’t have a plan. You know, as I heard one person say, we had space age technology to drill the well and sort of horse and buggy technology to clean it up. The technology that BP is using out there is the same technology they used when we had a similar oil spill or oil leak in the GUlf in the late 70’s. And we talked about the top hat, back then they were calling it the big sombrero. I mean, its really, the technology to solve the problem has not progressed as much as the technology to drill deeper and deeper. So, we need to make sure, look, its not that we should have no regulation, we should have reasonable, prudent regulation done by good government regulators who understand that you can’t regulate so much that you suffocate the business or that we can’t can’t drill oil here, that we are reliant even more on foreign oil which, by the way has to be shipped in on a barge which traditionally has had a lot more leaks than oil drilling has. So there’s no perfect solution. What you need is good regulation, good regulators and they’re going to have to invest more on blowout preventers and other technologies and redundancies to make sure that we don’t have this problem again. But we are not in a position to stop drilling for oil. Oil is a great resource for this country, whether its in Alaska or off our coast. It needs to be done reasonably, it needs to be done carefully, it needs to be done far enough away from shore, but its gonna have to continue until such time as we have a break through that’s going to allow us specifically to propel our cars and our airplanes off of something other than a petroleum based product. Right now, that’s not a reality.
Q: There’s been some talk about, usually an explosion on a well head to get the leak to stop. But this was something that was brought up in the first few days of the leak as sort of a last ditch, sort of, “if nothing else works” we can do this. it would Basically eliminate any possibility of getting the oil out of that field, but supposedly its more or less a fool proof way to seal off the problem. What have you heard about that and a.) is it a practical solution if nothing else works, and b.) Is anybody really willing to take that risk?
A: Yeah, I don’t think they are at this point, you know this stems from, as I understand it, maybe its more than a rumor, but the rumor that the Soviets did something like this when they had an oil spill. The state of the technology as I understand from talking to experts, the best thing to do is to drill these relief wells and they’re not drilling one, but two relief wells. They’re also trying to do other things to cap the well and I hope they’re successful on that. Now if we get to September and the relief wells don’t work and they haven’t capped the well, we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board. I mean, I sure hope we don’t have to do that, I sure hope that these efforts are successful, but you worry about something like blowing up a bomb on the bottom of the ocean, what that’s gonna do and what if it made the situation worse and I’m not sure that’s a viable alternative for us.
Q: Senator George LeMieux, I want to thank you for being with us. I know you’ve got a busy schedule and you’ve taken out quite a bit of time here to talk with us. Is there anything else that you want to say that I haven’t asked you before you go?
A: No, I think you’ve really covered it and I just appreciate you giving us some time to talk about this. Because now that we’re 72 days into this crisis its starting to fall away from the front pages and its not on the cable channels as much as it was with all of the other things going on in the rest of the world. But the people of the GUlf are still suffering and this administration is still not responding in the way it should, so I really appreciate you having me on and giving me a chance to air my views on this.
Q: Well, its my pleasure and we would like to have you come back on as often as you’d like to give us updates on this. THis is going to be going on for quite some time and we really need to make sure we’re up to date as to what’s going on out there. So please, come back as often as you like and give us updates on this.
A: Thank you so much.
Q: Thank you sir.