President Obama’s carefully scripted scheme to deflect blame for the Gulf oil spill is starting to crumble. A new report from the Center for Public Integrity puts the White House in the spotlight for its failure to acknowledge the government’s own role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Obama has repeatedly blamed BP for the spill, telling the nation in a televised Oval Office address on June 15: “We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused.” A day later he pressured BP to set aside $20 billion to pay economic damage to the region.
But in the critical first days after the explosion, the new report reveals the U.S. Coast Guard disregarded its own firefighting policy and might have caused the oil rig to sink — prompting the leak that resulted in the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
Evidence unearthed by reporters Aaron Mehta and John Solomon shows the cash-strapped Coast Guard broke its own rules and didn't have a firefighting expert on the scene to oversee the private boats battling the blaze. There's an ongoing investigation to determine if the salt water sprayed on the burning oil rig caused it to sink.
“[T]he question of what caused the platform to collapse into the Gulf … remains unanswered and could prove vital to ongoing legal proceedings and congressional investigations,” the article states. “That is because the riser pipe from which the majority of BP’s oil spewed did not start leaking until after the rig sank.”
These new details raise serious questions for the White House, which has repeatedly pinned the blame on BP. If it turns out the Coast Guard is at fault — either because it didn't follow proper procedures or couldn't respond adequately because of a lack of resources — the public has a right to know why we're just now learning this information 100 days after the disaster began.
The crippling budget cuts President Obama proposed for the Coast Guard also deserve a closer examination. Obama's spending plan reduced the blue water fleet by a full one-third, slashed 1,000 personnel, five cutters, and several aircraft, including helicopters. According to the Center for Public Integrity, the Coast Guard updated its official maritime rescue manual — advising against firefighting aboard a rig — just seven months before the Deepwater Horizon explosion. That change in policy came at a time when Adm. Thad Allen threatened to turn the Coast Guard into a “hollow force.”
An earlier report from Mehta and Solomon also raised important questions that the White House has yet to answer about what Obama knew when. That investigation revealed the White House timeline of events failed to acknowledge an oil leak until four days after the explosion, even though the Coast Guard's timeline reported a leak one day after the explosion.
Bluey directs the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation.