You could see this coming from far off, in this case the adoption by Gov. Bobby Jindal of the Pres. Barack Obama Administration’s mantra, “never let a crisis go to waste.” But while Obama wishes to take, if not provoke and create, crises in order to empower government at the expense of people, Jindal wants to use an entirely unwanted one to score environmental protection way ahead of schedule and on the cheap.
When the Apr. 20 well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico began pumping oil into the sea, that unfortunate incident cost lives and environmental degradation. But while Obama sought to use the incident as a catalyst to push for a costly, counterproductive alternative energy agenda, Jindal saw a silver lining to the tragedy enabled by a confluence of disparate circumstances.
The disappearance or retreat of Louisiana’s coastline long has been recognized, caused by human intervention such as through activities to prevent flooding and controlling waterways and economic activities, and also through natural changes. While the environmental and economic consequences are troubling, perhaps the greatest threat from change this comes from hurricanes. As marshlands recede, natural impediments to hurricanes are reduced to permit stronger ones to hit larger populated areas just off the coast.
While federal legislation eventually passed to begin funneling money to states to restore coasts, at present the money comes in a relative trickle and won’t begin substantially accruing for several more years. This means serious restoration efforts could not begin bearing fruit for another decade, allowing for more degradation and less n from inclement weather in the interim.
Until the accident happened and the company responsible for it BP pledged it would pay for efforts to contain the oil – one strategy of which is building berms to prevent oil from washing into marshland or, in essence, building artificial barrier islands. The Jindal Administration then figured out it could leverage an oil protection strategy into a marshland protection and restoration strategy, speeding up by years environmental efforts and at a much lower price affordable by the small amount of federal money coming in and other bucks previously bankrolled by the state during a special session early in Jindal’s term.
Despite overblown and politically-motivated criticism of the berms (some of which said it diverted money from things like coastal restoration), they have done their job with the oil. Even if a large amount of it has not been captured by them, considering the consequences if not, they have been worth it. From this point, Jindal wants to have them do double-duty by providing a means by which to serve as barriers behind which marshland can be rebuilt. At the current rate of progress, the entire 31-mile stretch of berms won’t be complete for several months.
In monetary terms, the free ride on cost may end before then. BP gave the state $360 million towards them, about a third of which has been spent, but the state could get more as long as the emergency situation ends, a call made by the federal government. Regardless, with this much done, the state if it ran out of money from others should use its own funds to finish them. So this is not a pressing issue.
What is the problem is that the federal emergency permit to allow for the work is expiring and if the emergency doesn’t persist, with the apparent capping of the leak within the past month, the federal government will not grant continuation of the work under the present guidelines (on about a third of the berms) nor allow the other berms not yet started to have work begin on them. Thus, the state is seeking regular permits, requiring review and public comment.
Having witnessed the success of the berms to date, critics now are focusing more on the impact the process of the construction may have on aquatic species. To which they apparently must be reminded: are crabs and turtles really more important than human lives? No doubt any potential harm visited on one part of the ecosystem to improve another part is undesirable, but in the permitting process a sense of proportion and reasonable priority hopefully will be maintained.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 08:00