The Jones Act prevents foreign vessels, such as skimmers that during the time the well remained uncapped were desperately needed, from operating out of U.S. ports (instead of in transshipment with a foreign port as a destination), in order to placate U.S. maritime unions. Foreign skimmers could find a way around the law by coming and going from the same U.S. port and skimming more than three miles offshore, but some skimming needed to be done where oil was hitting shore within three miles of the shoreline. At the time, the Obama Administration denied any requests had been made for the only other way around it, a waiver, even though one company had publicly revealed it had made such a request. Others foreign governments at the time reported offers of help that due to the Act were rebuffed, and one even engaged in subterfuge to get around the Act.
As now reported that wasn’t the only dishonesty coming from the Administration. It turns out that in fact, despite denials at the time, a number of waivers appear to have been ended up getting granted, perhaps then not admitted to save embarrassment from the implications of the Act. The word “appear” above is not accident; that’s exactly the verb used on pp. 142-43 on the report. The entirety of the report’s discussion deserves display, as it is so brief:
Foreign companies and countries also offered assistance in the form of response equipment and vessels. The Coast Guard and National Incident Command accepted some of these offers and rejected others.98 News reports and politicians alleged that the federal government turned away foreign offers of assistance because of the Jones Act, a law preventing foreign vessels from participating in trade between U.S. ports.99 While decisionmakers did decline to purchase some foreign equipment for operational reasons—for example, Dutch vessels that would have taken weeks to outfit and sail to the region, and a Taiwanese super-skimmer that was expensive and highly inefficient in the Gulf—they did not reject foreign ships because of Jones Act restrictions.100 These restrictions did not even come into play for the vast majority of vessels operating at the wellhead, because the Act does not block foreign vessels from loading and then unloading oil more than three miles off the coast.101 When the Act did apply, the National Incident Commander appears to have granted waivers and exemptions when requested.102
The footnotes above all cite as sources the National Incident Commander, Adm. Thad Allen of the Coast Guard, other subordinates of his, media releases from the Departments of State and Homeland Security and the White House, or media stories hewing to this viewpoint – in other words, featuring no real independent sources with inside knowledge of the events, and certainly no testimony or documents from foreign governments who publicly announced they had tried to offer assistance. The final footnote attached to where “appears” appears in the text relies upon “Non-public Coast Guard documents, June 29, 2010, June 30, 2010, and July 9, 2010.”
In other words, the Commission seemed satisfied with taking the word of just one side of the argument – the side that had created the Commission and selected its members – despite this wealth of information suggesting a plausible, if not absolutely convincing, alternative history. As such, that the report included what it did only confirms the general overall untrustworthiness of it and as a snow job outrivals recently blizzards that have struck the country.