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Friday, July 02, 2010

Thursday White House Briefing on Oil Spill

Here's an excerpt of the White House Briefing held on Thursday with Admiral Thad Allen and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. In this excerpt somebody finally asked about foreign skimmers, the A Whale Super Skimmer and the impact of the Jones Act on foreign vessels assisting in the clean-up. Unfortunately, the media did not challenge Allen or Gibbs on their answers. They took them at face value. In fact, this is not the truth. If there are substantial oil recovery vessels working the Gulf, let's have the names and details of these vessels. Every time I hear a Administration spokesperson say something about the Jones Act and the number of foreign vessels taking part in the clean up it's always something different. Here again, it's something different, where Allen says there are 22 vessels. Twenty two piss ant skimmers from Mexico doesn't amount to a hill of beans. I wish somebody, anybody, would take these bureaucrats to task.

Transcript Excerpt Below:

Q And on the oil spill, if I may, House Republicans today released a report that’s critical of the administration’s cleanup efforts. Specifically they say they have evidence that administration officials “have misrepresented key facts, including the number of assets dedicated to cleaning up the spill, the timing of when officials knew about the oil leak.” What is your response to that?

ADMIRAL ALLEN: Well, I think we’ve been pretty transparent throughout this response. I’ve stood up here and talked to you all very frankly. I’ve given you the numbers that we have. Those numbers are rolled up from the reports we get from the folks that are downrange there.

I’ve been downrange myself. I’ve been to all four states; I go frequently, traveled both with the President and the Vice President this week. Every indication I have that the numbers are coming up are the numbers that are there.

You can always find a place where there’s somebody on the beach not cleaning, where it’s empty, and you can find a piece of water where there’s no skimmer; it’s just that big an area down there. But this thing has evolved from the start, and from a massive monolithic oil spill to thousands and hundreds of thousands of small patches of oil. It’s required us to change our tactics, move to a more skimmer-based approach from the boom approach that was originally requested by the governors. But I think throughout the entire life cycle of the event we’ve been pretty up front with the resources that have been out there.

Q So it’s more about the complexity of this operation rather than transparency?

ADMIRAL ALLEN: Well, it’s no doubt it’s the most complex thing we’ve ever been involved in. It’s transformed itself way beyond a normal oil spill response. And early on the governors were very concerned about protecting their resources with boom, and we put a lot of boom out. And we’re at a point now where were double- and triple-booming places. And our goal is to approach 200 percent of the basic boom requirement, to just continue to do that to make sure we’re protecting everything as much as we can.

But the fact of the nature of the spill has changed. We had new flow rate numbers several weeks ago, as you know. That’s put a premium on skimming capability -- all kinds of skimming capability, very shallow skimming capability into the back areas like Barataria Bay, to the very heavy-duty skimmers offshore. And we’re very aggressively acquiring those right now. The spill has evolved and we’ve evolved with it.

MR. GIBBS: Let me just add to this. I scanned a portion of this. Part of what he purports to address is that somehow it took the command 70 days to accept international help. That is -- it’s a myth that has been debunked literally hundreds of times. There were already 24 foreign vessels that were operating in the Gulf before the State Department announced two days ago additional international assistance. As early as May 11th, boom had arrived from Mexico, Norway and Brazil.

Part of the report mentions that our failure to waive the Jones Act has been a problem; that, again, a myth that has I think been debunked on any number of occasions. And I would say one thing to Congressman Issa, Plaquemines is spelled P-l-a-q-u-e-m-i-n-e-s.

Q Two questions.

Q Can I follow up on that, though?

Q The first one to Admiral Allen, about the skimmers. I understand that there is somewhat of a super skimmer, a mega-ship called “A Whale, from the Taiwanese. I just wonder what is the status of approval on that and how effective do you think that ship will be?

ADMIRAL ALLEN: I’m not sure I’d call that a skimmer. I think that’s a developmental project that we want to see how it works. The owners made an offer to bring it down at their expense and have it operate in the Gulf area to see if it could be effective. We have worked with EPA and other regulatory agencies to give it a go, and it’s down in the area; it will be ready to operate in a couple of days.

We’re anxious to find out how effective it will be. But it is a very large ship that’s been converted to be able to recover oil, and we’ll see how it goes.

MR. GIBBS: We can get a timeline for you. It I think came from Portugal, was retrofitted until mid-June in Lisbon, and then made its way down to the Gulf.*

Q Do you have high hopes for that?

ADMIRAL ALLEN: Well, we have high hopes for anything that can be effective down there. As you realize, this is an all-hands-on-deck evolution. We need to mass our forces, and anything that’s effective we’re looking forward to using.

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