By Bob Marshall, The Times-Picayune
May 23, 2010, 6:05AM
Watching our politicians and listening to oil industry voices during BP's mugging of our coastal ecosystem has me repeatedly thinking of two things:
Horses out of barns, and the planet Mars.
The first thought is prompted by the endless parade of Louisiana politicos who can't seem to get enough face time lately showing their concern for the potentially horrendous harm oil poses to our coastal wetlands, all the while stressing how important that habitat is to our economy, culture and future. Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sens. David Vitter and Mary Landrieu, Rep. Charlie Melancon and many more are doing a replay of President Bush's 9/11 photo ops: visiting the scenes of destruction, hugging the hearty locals terrorized by the disaster and pledging to make those responsible accountable for the dastardly deed.
Well, if they're serious about that accounting, they can start by looking in the mirror.
The shock and arrrgh being expressed by these folks -- and many of their constituents -- at the terrible environmental gamble that comes with offshore drilling goes beyond preaching caution after the horse is out of the barn. After all, these same groups helped open the barn door, hung a feed bucket around the horse's neck and then gave it a good slap on the rump to speed it on its way.
I'm talking about the fervor for deregulation, the movement to eliminate federal laws that protect people and the environment.
That has been a battle cry for conservative politics for three decades. It was Ronald Reagan who famously made "get government off the backs of business," a winning strategy. And it was George W. Bush who pushed to rewrite the rule books for energy development on public property, rolling back protections for fish, wildlife, air and water under the banner of streamlining the nation's race for energy. That movement sought to turn 40 years of bipartisan environmental protection on its head, and it did.
Industry lobbyists and officials were appointed to key environmental positions with orders to make the environment safe for business -- especially the energy business. Agencies became boosters for development, not protectors of the public trust.
Louisiana's delegations, and most of its voters, cheered almost every step.
For our political leaders to act shocked that something like this could happen requires equal portions of gall and amnesia.
The media is now filled with testimony from whistle blowers at agencies telling how warnings of threats to the environment were down-played, ignored or tossed in the trash bin. Their bosses were only following orders.
Even after the disaster, industry promoters are saying how rare such accidents are, are talking (in almost reverential tones) about how amazing the technology for deep-ocean drilling is, often using the refrain "this is like stuff we do in space."