Mack criticizes Obama response to oil disaster
Nelson plan would boost subsea oil monitoring
Coverage: Gulf Coast Oil Spill
Two federal lawmakers visiting Southwest Florida on Wednesday took aim at the government’s response to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, said he is filing a bill next week to require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to strengthen its plans for monitoring the undersea oil from the blown-out Deepwater Horizon well.
Nelson said he was “shocked” that NOAA didn’t already have a plan on the shelf.
“The filing of this legislation is intended to kick them into gear in order to attack this,” Nelson said in remarks at his office in downtown Fort Myers.
U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, visiting the corporate offices of a Bonita Springs oil boom vendor, laid blame at the White House door for a sluggish response to the catastrophe that has been playing out for more than two months.
“I’m still very frustrated and frankly angry at the response by the federal government,” Mack said. “I think President Obama has failed in his responsibility to this, failed to recognize the severity of this.”
As skimmers try to suck up the expanding slick and boats try to corral the oil behind booms, another threat is lurking below the surface.
Scientists have found large underwater clouds of microscopic oil moving away from the spill site, but they say they know little about them.
“This is the stalking unknown with regard to the future of the health of the Gulf of Mexico,” Nelson said.
The bill would require NOAA to review its capacity to monitor, map and track subsea hydrocarbons.
The review would look at the protocol for applying subsurface dispersants, oil’s effect on all levels of the food chain and the capacity of coastal and ocean current models to predict the path of the stealth oil.
The plan would be enacted within a year and funded with $15 million from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund set up in the wake of Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989.
Nelson unveiled the bill flanked by Florida Gulf Coast University marine scientists Greg Tolley and Mike Parsons, co-directors of the university’s Coastal Watershed Institute.
“There’s less known about the deep ocean than we know about the moon,” Parsons said.
Back at the surface, BP has been learning a thing or two about the need to use better oil containment booms.
In the past two weeks, the oil giant has ordered changes to the boom being manufactured to combat the Gulf spill, said Daniel Root, managing member of Containment Resource, the Bonita Springs-based boom vendor.
The result — dubbed Revision F — incorporates universal connectors to string the boom together, cables wrapped in plastic to prevent fraying the boom material and anchors every 50 feet with logos at the surface for boom layers to find them easily, Root said.
“They were all common sense changes for the better,” he said.
An Alabama factory, 20 miles north of Pensacola, will be able to manufacture 30,000 feet of the boom every day for Containment Resource to distribute to its customers in Florida, Root said.
Mack encouraged Southwest Florida emergency managers not to wait for BP to come to the rescue.
“Sometimes you need to do what you need to do,” Mack said.
He said Obama should bring in the military to lead the spill response, get more skimmers to the Gulf and rally support from other nations to pitch in with the response.
“He’s in a position to do that and he hasn’t done it and he needs to be more active in that position,” Mack said.
Connect with Eric Staats at www.naplesnews.com/staff/eric_staats/.