So, for class today, I got sent to Capitol Hill to hear, oh yeah, Kevin Costner, talk about oil spill response in the same monotone with which he graces the silver screen.
I tried to get a photo but got yelled at. booo. The only image I got was the one below, from my blackberry. The guy in the white jacket way far down in front? Oh yeah, that’s him. I tried to sneak another photo when we were all on our way out, I was right there next to him, I was close enough to touch him, all stalker-like! But the battery on my goddamed motherfrackking blackberry had died. Double boo.
Then I had to go back and write a very matter-of-fact article about what I’d heard. And so ended my second brush with celebrity in D.C. (the first was with Rick Steves who came to eat at Busboys and Poets on my very first day working there. And if you don’t think he counts as a celbrity, you obviously weren’t raised on PBS)
Article below, meh.
Costner testifies about oil response plan to Homeland Security committee
Actor Kevin Costner testified before a congressional hearing Wednesday about his proposed $850 million to $1 billion oil spill response plan saying that “America deserves a no-nonsense approach to spills that are certain to happen.”
Costner outlined his “three-tier” response plan which incorporates booming and skimming, oil and water separation technology, improved storage capacity for recaptured oil and a fleet of 190 vessels. Costner, through his company, Costner Industries Nevada Corp., has also spent over $20 million dollars to develop technologies to separate spilled oil from water.
The actor appeared on a panel alongside President of Saint Bernard Parish, Craig Paul Taffaro Jr. to testify to the Committee on Homeland Security in a session on the preliminary lessons to be learned from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill.
Costner divided his plan into three phases. The first response phase would include retrofitting 40 deep water platform vessels that already operate in the Gulf of Mexico, each with a storage capacity of 12,000 barrels. so they would be ready to respond within 2 to 3 hours of a spill.
The “overwhelming response” of the second tier would be to send out additional offshore supply vessels loaded up with oil recovery equipment, and deep water barges – with 6,000 and 100,000 barrel capacities respectively – within the first 2 to 4 days. Costner said this would provide a processing capacity of 1.5 million barrels.
The third phase for “our last line of defense” would be a fleet of skimming vessels designed to work in shallow waters. He said this element is important for its psychological impact so that coastal clean-up workers “can finally begin to put away their rubber boots.”
Costner testified to the difficulty of finding a place within the federal government to go with his solutions, which he’s been working on for 15 years, “I feel like I’m trick or treating, going from door to door.” But as to the suggestion that his celebrity may have been an impediment to the adoption of his machines he denied it, “I think it was business as usual. People don’t want to pay the cost because safety isn’t sexy.”
In the face of corporate reluctance to shell out money for safety and response measures, Costner recognized “It goes against our human nature. We want our pile [of money] to get bigger.” He called on greater obligatory safety and response measures, comparing regulations on the oil industry to such common sense measures such as requiring the proper number of life boats on a ship.
Costner reserved particular criticism for BP’s use of chemical dispersants. “It gets oil out of sight and out of mind really quickly,” said Costner, who in his opening statement called for “solutions that don’t depend on dispersants, burning and public relations.”
The actor had harsh words for the safety measures provided by the industry in general. “The industry should have a plan in place that isn’t just adequate. ‘Adequate’ is a word we use as a child.” He called for a plan “that seems adult… A mature industry like the oil industry should have one.”
Taffaro, the Saint Bernard Parish president lent a ground level perspective to the hearings, testifying to the multiple communications failures among the various agencies involved in different levels of the spill response. He also joined Costner in criticising the role of BP and oil companies in general in safety and cleanup efforts.
“The interaction between the St. Bernard Branch and the Department of Homeland Security was non-existent” said Taffaro in his opening statement as an example of the faulty communication with the many agencies trying to coordinated response efforts. “This was indicative of the disconnected response efforts at all levels.”
Taffaro lamented the loss of “so much valuable information from people on the front lines of a disaster” within the bureaucratic layers that local authorities faced in the wake of the spill.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) agreed with Taffaro that “a national or federal agency response is much more effective when local knowledge and local resources are brought to bear.”
Lee also expressed concerns raised by Taffaros’ testimony over “too much dominance of the private sector.”
“I can’t agree with you more,” said Taffaro. “To use a cliche, the fox should not watch the hen house”