McClatchy Story Notes Severe Lack of Skimmers in Gulf But Barely Touches on Reasons Why

Karen Nelson of the Biloxi Sun Herald wrote a report picked up by McClatchy Newspapers about the incredible level of frustration felt by the people living along the Gulf of Mexico over the severe lack of skimmers available in that region to combat the BP oil spill. She went into detail explaining the anger felt by the Gulf residents over the fact that few skimmers are cleaning up the oil. However, one thing that seems to be mostly ignored, except in passing, is WHY so few skimmers are currently in the Gulf.

First the frustration felt over by the Gulf residents:

GULFPORT, Miss. — A morning flight over the Mississippi Sound showed long, wide ribbons of orange-colored oil for as far as the eye could see and acres of both heavy and light sheen moving into the Sound between the barrier islands. What was missing was any sign of skimming operations from Horn Island to Pass Christian.


 U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor got off the flight angry.

"It’s criminal what’s going on out there," Taylor said minutes later. "This doesn’t have to happen.”

A scientist onboard, Mike Carron with the Northern Gulf Institute, said with this scenario, there will be oil on the beaches of the mainland.

“There’s oil in the Sound and there was no skimming,” Carron said. “No coordinated effort.”


Back on land in Gulfport, Taylor let loose.

“A lot of people are getting paid to say, ‘Look! There’s oil’ and not doing anything about it,” Taylor said. “There shouldn’t be a drop of oil in the Sound. There are enough boats running around."

“Nobody’s in charge,” Taylor said. “Everybody’s in charge, so no one’s in charge."

Why? In the next sentence Congressman Roger Wicker comes close to the truth but the story does not elaborate:

Taylor and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., took the morning flight on a National Guard helicopter with representatives of the state DEQ and BP.

After the flight Wicker said he feels it’s not too late for President Barack Obama to accept help from other countries that have offered the services of their large oil-skimming boats.

Wicker blamed bureaucracy and the president, but said, “Mississippi has been a champ from the beginning of this.”

And these brief hints are all a reader can find in this story as to WHY so few skimmers are in the Gulf. We learn about the anger felt over the lack of skimmers but beyond the above hints, it pretty much remains a mystery to the casual reader of this oddly incomplete article as to WHY the skimmers are missing. 

Perhaps a review of the recent comments by Florida Senator George LeMieux on the floor of the U.S. Senate could shed some light on the missing WHY in this story:

Why are there so few skimmers in the Gulf of Mexico? 

Yeah, why, George? The article was no real help in answering that question but perhaps you can provide those conspicuously missing blanks:

... there was a State Department report stating that 21 instances of help have been made and they were refused. Come to find out through discussions with my office that there are still offers and there have been offers from foreign countries and ports for skimmers and that, in fact, those skimmers were refused.

... the state of affairs is that there are only now 20 skimmers off the coast of Florida for. When there were 32 last week, there are now just 20.

While there are 2,000 skimmers available in the United States alone. That number comes from Admiral Allen.

So what was reason for so few skimmers in the Gulf when so many are available?

Now, when I talked to the President and Admiral Allen about this last week, they said, look, some of these skimmers are not available because we may need them for an oil spill. Well, we have an oil spill.


And just because they may be required to stand on watch somewhere in case an oil spill happens someplace else, that's like saying to the people in Pensacola, your home is on fire but we can't send the fire engine because there may be a fire someplace else.

The rationale by the administration for the lack of skimmers in the Gulf, on top of their initial refusal of skimmers offered by the Dutch, is beyond absurd. And you wouldn't really know the reason for that lack of skimmers by reading the McClatchy report about...the lack of skimmers.

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P.J. Gladnick's picture