Monday, November 15, 2010

Adm. Thad Allen on the Gulf oil leak

Admiral Thad Allen launched the 75th annual meeting of the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission being held in Tucson tonight with a casual but ultimately biting review of the Gulf oil leak.

Among the tidbits - the Incident Command Center he ran pretty quickly took control of airspace over the Gulf of Mexico. The skies were full of planes ferrying people and supplies to the dozens of vessels working the response, news reporters, other planes were laying down dispersants, and some were sent out by local politicians to find locations where there were no clean up crews so they could swoop in to hold press conferences to show the failure of the response. There were a total of 8 near mid-air collisions.

There were also up to 3,000 vessels trying to contain or soak up oil, including many volunteer or local efforts that did not contact or work through the ICC.

One truckload of oil containment booms, heading inland for repairs was commandeered by the local parish authorities to prevent it from leaving the area. Adm. Allen lamented that his team had to deal with this kind of counter-insurgency forces.

He noted that plans to invest federal funds a couple decades ago to prepare for this kind of event were sidetracked by repeated federal budget cuts. He was using plans and policies developed for a repeat of the Exxon Valdez spill, not what they actually had to face. "The time for R&D is not during a spill."

Part of his role was to serve as a referee between the cautions offered by the Science Team and the push by BP to take immediate actions.

Among the lessons he shared is the need for full transparency in management, and the need to deal effectively and quickly with volunteers and NGOs, who otherwise turn to the news media with complaints of being turned away.

His closing comment brought laughs? "The best thing about Louisiana is that it is so close to the United States."

He got a standing ovation from the crowd at the Hilton El Conquistador.

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