Obama Blocked Clean Up of BP Oil Spill by Friendly Countries; International Assistance Blocked by Regulations Obama Had The Authority To Waive

by Hans Bader on June 14, 2010

in Blog

Crucial offers to help clean up BP’s oil spill “have come from Belgian, Dutch, and Norwegian firms that . . . possess some of the world’s most advanced oil skimming ships.” But the Obama administration wouldn’t accept the help, because doing so would require it to do something past presidents have routinely done: waive rules imposed by the Jones Act, a law backed by unions.

“The BP clean-up effort in the Gulf of Mexico is hampered by the Jones Act. This is a piece of 1920s protectionist legislation, that requires all vessels working in U.S. waters to be American-built, and American-crewed. So . . . the U.S. Coast Guard . . . can’t accept, and therefore don’t ask for, the assistance of high-tech European vessels specifically designed for the task in hand.”

The law itself permits the president to waive these requirements, and such waivers were “granted, promptly, by the Bush administration,” in the aftermath of hurricanes and other emergencies. But Obama has refused to do so, notes David Warren in the Ottawa Citizen. Instead, Obama rejected a Dutch offer to help clean up the spill, noted Voice of America News:

“The Obama administration declined the Dutch offer partly because of the Jones Act, which restricts foreign ships from certain activities in U.S. waters.  During the Hurricane Katrina crisis five years ago, the Bush administration waived the Jones Act in order to facilitate some foreign assistance, but such a waiver was not given in this case.”

“After the Obama administration refused help from the Netherlands, Geert Visser, the consul general for the Netherlands in Houston, told Loren Steffy: ‘Let’s forget about politics; let’s get it done.’” But for Obama, politics always comes first: “The explanation of Obama’s reluctance to seek this remedy is his cozy relationship with labor unions. . . ‘The unions see it [not waiving the act] as … protecting jobs. They hate when the Jones Act gets waived.’”

Ironically, even the staunchest supporters of the Jones Act are now distancing themselves from refusals to accept foreign help, saying they have “not and will not stand in the way of the use of these well-established waiver procedures to address this crisis.” Obama is being more intransigently pro-union than the unions themselves.

One can only hope Obama will change his mind now, given that “each day our European allies are prevented from helping us speed up the clean up is another day that Gulf fishing and tourism jobs die.”

(The Obama administration has belatedly accepted some foreign equipment for use in fighting the spill, although it still blocks ships with foreign crews. As Voice of America notes, although “the Netherlands offered help in April,” such as providing “sophisticated” oil “skimmers and dredging devices,” the Obama administration blocked their crews from working in U.S. waters, and as a result, this crucial “operation was delayed until U.S. crews could be trained” in June. “The Dutch also offered assistance with building sand berms (barriers) along the coast of Louisiana to protect sensitive marshlands, but that offer was also rejected, even though Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal had been requesting such protective barriers.”)

In April 2009, the Obama administration granted BP, a big supporter of Obama, a waiver of environmental regulations.  But after the oil spill, it blocked Louisiana from protecting its coastline against the oil spill by delaying rather than expediting regulatory approval of essential protective measures.  It has also chosen not to use what has been described as “the most effective method” of fighting the spill, a method successfully used in other oil spills.  Democratic strategist James Carville called Obama’s handling of the oil spill “lackadaisical” and “unbelievable” in its “stupidity.”

Obama is now using BP’s oil spill to push the global-warming legislation that BP had lobbied for.  Obama’s global warming legislation expands ethanol subsidies, which cause famine, starvation, and food riots in poor countries by shrinking the food supply.  Ethanol makes gasoline costlier and dirtier, increases ozone pollution, and increases the death toll from smog and air pollution.   Ethanol production also results in deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution. Subsidies for biofuels like ethanol are a big source of corporate welfare: “BP has lobbied for and profited from subsidies for biofuels . . . that cannot break even without government support.”

The $800 billion stimulus package is also using taxpayer subsidies to replace U.S. jobs with foreign green jobs. And its regulations destroy jobs in America’s export sector.

BobRGeologist June 14, 2010 at 8:53 pm

I do not pretend to understand the complexities that caused Obama to refuse use of foreign oil sweepers to clean up this oily mess. This refusal of help simply defies all logic and appears to be in sore need of legislative changes.It should be a prerequisite to have such equipment on hand before undertaking deep water drilling forced by the environmental requirement of 50 miles from shore limitation Not to be minimized is the fact that 14 human lives were lost here. And, the fact that oil and mineral deposits are where you find them seems lost on those of a Green persuasion.

Paddy June 15, 2010 at 8:17 am

The reasons that Obama deliberately refused foreign help and refused to waive regulations that prevented or delayed necessary actions should be obvious. He exacerbated a major disaster exponentially in order to justify ramming through his economy ruining energy bills.

Tonights speech will be the proof for the pudding.

Occasional Viewer June 15, 2010 at 4:26 pm

As Rahm Emanuel said, Obama never lets a crisis go to waste — even if that means he has to manufacture the crisis first.

azmi June 18, 2010 at 8:53 am

The regulations destroy jobs in America’s export sector…..sound very bad….He should think about it….

Drusilla Kunis June 20, 2010 at 7:07 am

Thanks for the interesting post! May I ask where you get your sources from?

complaints and consu June 21, 2010 at 1:39 am

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Douglas Speak June 30, 2010 at 1:11 am

Why did the administration refuse the help of these foreign nations? from what I found in a 20 second or so session with google is…it seems…they wanted to charge for that help.


so, if these services are for hire, a better question is “Why isn’t BP willing to pay for these services?”

it is bp’s oil rig, after all, so the us taxpayer should not be on the hook for the clean up bill.

anyway, mystery solved.

Mike June 30, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Obama finally approved skimmers after 70 days. Suggesting that they are doing all they can do is a flat lie.


L. Smith July 7, 2010 at 10:19 am

For anyone concerned with the getting to the truth rather than perpetuating the disemination of misinformation; Factcheck.org, a non-partisan organization that monitors political “news” stories addressed this issue. The Jones Act never applied in this situation and there is no reputable evidence that help has been refused from anyone. Stop following the herd

Commenter1 July 7, 2010 at 11:06 pm

L. Smith’s claim is false.

Factcheck.org’s own readers refuted its unfounded claim about the Jones Act. They convincingly explained how the Jones Act DID block foreign aid:


Pmacdee July 13, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Folks, There are a lot of unattributed quotes in this article. The only conclusion I come to is that the author is hiding the truth.

This source( http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jun/25/nation/la-na-jones-actqa-20100625) indicates that the offers were to sell the US equipment. So naturally our government is going to evaluate the offers.

So how would this story read if our government purchased the equipment from a foreign country with our tax dollars before requiring a foreign oil company to use their resources?

Think about it.

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