BP oil spill: Winners and losers
Just as The Federal Eye finalized his list of the winners and losers from the federal government's response to the BP oil spill, oil once again started seeping near the capped well on Sunday. Though any discussion of potential winners and losers may come a bit early, the sense of hopelessness along the Gulf Coast is easing -- and Washington loves talking about who's up and down.
So with an appreciative nod to The Fix, let's take a preliminary look at the agencies and officials winning and losing amid the government's response to the disaster. (Your thoughts on who's up and down are welcomed in the comments section below):
• Thad Allen: He rescued the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 took charge of the Obama administration's spill response about a month before he was set to retire as Coast Guard commandant. Critics say he's been too cautious and slow to respond to requests from BP and the Gulf Coast states and that he lacked total command of the government's response. But the now-former admiral has provided transparent and steady leadership and has served as a nonpartisan, nonpolitical spokesman, a model leader for future disasters.
• U.S. Coast Guard: The nation's maritime agency once again performed brilliantly, quickly responding to the April 20 explosion and leading the flotilla of ships collecting oil across the region. Few problems to speak of, save for a few critics and legislators who think its role should be expanded to ensure offshore drilling rigs are seaworthy.
• Steven Chu: The energy secretary earned two glowing profiles this weekend in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and both conclude that he's provided steady, evidence-based advice and leadership to BP and the Obama administration, which have both praised his performance. It also doesn't hurt that he's a Nobel Prize winner (a point the administration loves to remind us about whenever it can).
• The government's online response: Hours after President Obama declared the oil spill a national incident, local, state and federal officials and BP stood up DeepwaterHorizonResponse.com, a comprehensive, one-stop shop for any and all information about the spill -- from potential health risks to how to file claims. Its simple design and frequent updates make it a model for how public and private entities can and should work together in the future to clearly inform the public about natural and manmade disasters.
• Minerals Management Service: The agency's past scandals generated little national attention or interest until the spill made MMS a global embarrassment. Top agency bosses got the boot and new leadership renamed the agency the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement. Some officials initially called it BOE, but then insisted on BOEMRE. Or is it BOEM? Either way, reporters still call it MMS and the name change provided more confusion and played into long-held criticisms that Washington too often slaps a new name and coat of paint on the same old problems.
• Ken Salazar and Tom Strickland: Salazar initially led the government's public response to the oil spill, but several verbal gaffes (remember "keep our boot on the neck of BP"?) led to White House repudiations and clarifications. Strickland earned criticism for staying on a whitewater rafting trip in the Grand Canyon instead of deploying to the Gulf. Now both have the unenviable task of reorganizing MMS/BOEMRE.
• Rep. Joe Barton: The Texas Republican's public apology to BP for the White House's treatment of the company fueled stereotypes that the GOP is too cozy with big business and big oil, diverted attention from the Obama administration's stalled response to the spill, and gave Congressional Democrats a video clip they'll play over and over and over again on their way to November's elections.
TOO SOON TO TELL:
• President Obama: Much of how he emerges from this incident depends on what happens with the next two unknowns (see below).
• Kenneth Feinberg: Will his work as administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund help or hurt his legacy as a the nation's go-to guy on complicated legal matters? The government's work on approving and denying claims could cement the government's reputation -- for better or worse -- in the Gulf Coast region for generations to come.
• Climate change legislation: Will supporters be able to sustain the momentum and urgency spurred by the spill in the coming months? Or will legislative efforts, led by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) fizzle out?
Agree or disagree with the list? Are there others to add?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below
• Cabinet and Staff News: The Obamas enjoy their vacation weekend in Maine. Vice President Biden responds to Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's words while his 2008 presidential campaign is fined $219,000. Timothy Geithner's influence grows with financial reform's passage as three candidates emerge to run the new consumer protection agency. What to expect from new OMB director/nominee Jacob Lew. The new TSA chief John Pistole says he'll put priority on rail, subways. ICE Director John Morton ignoring calls for his resignation. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has last week's worst week in Washington. Missed this, but still worth a read: State Department's Jared Cohen and Alec Ross profiled.
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT:
• Nevada roundup of wild horses in need of water resumes: Horse advocates had sought to halt the roundup, saying it was inhumane to herd the animals by helicopter to trapping sites in the hot summer weather.
• Army reports 32 suicides in June, highest number since early 2009: The numbers represent a disappointing setback and suggest that, after nine years of combat, the Army is showing some serious signs of strain.
• Pentagon reworks disclosure rule for 'senior mentors': DOD has weakened financial disclosure rules for highly paid retired generals and admirals who advise the military, documents show.
• Honoring the service of soldiers who commit suicide: The Pentagon doesn't tell units how to mourn soldiers who commit suicide in combat, but it makes distinctions between suicides and other war deaths.
FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION:
• Genetic testing mix-up reignites debate over degree of federal regulation needed: When does government intervention cross from prudent and necessary to intrusive and paternalistic?
IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT:
• ICE's whistle-blower 'witch hunt' must stop, union says: Officials said Friday they suspect an agent is being harassed because his surname is Asian, as is that of the reporter from The Washington Post who wrote about controversial quotas.
• Supreme Court ruling raises bar for corruption, fraud prosecutions: A ruling last month that gutted an anti-corruption tool favored by federal prosecutors is jeopardizing high-profile investigations into politicians and business executives.
• A conservative dismisses right-wing Black Panther 'fantasies': “This doesn’t have to do with the Black Panthers; this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration,” says U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Vice Chairwoman Abigail Thernstrom.
MINERALS MANAGEMENT SERVICE:
• MMS investigations of oil-rig accidents have history of inconsistency: It levied financial penalties 154 times in the past five years, agency officials testified last month. Although the agency now may assess fines of up to $35,000 per day, in five years it collected only $8.5 million.
U.S. PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE:
• Patent Office raises high hopes, then snuffs them out: For three months until last week, marijuana dealers had something they could only dream of before: the apparent stamp of approval of a federal agency.
• Court tells State Dept. to reconsider terrorist label for Iran opposition group: The ruling by the three-judge panel hands yet another foreign policy hot potato to the Obama administration.
• U.S. policy a paper tiger against sex trade in war zones: An eight-year-old policy that forbids government contractors and employees to engage in sex trafficking in war zones has proved almost impossible to enforce.
• Pakistani-Afghan trade deal announced during Clinton visit: The accord has been under negotiation for years.
• TARP auditor criticizes Obama administration's push to close auto dealerships: Accelerating the closure of General Motors and Chrysler Group dealerships probably was unnecessary and may have added to unemployment.
| July 19, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Eye Opener
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