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Government in action in the Gulf

Imagine performing CPR on a loved one in cardiac arrest, then having a paramedic stop you — not to assist or take over, but to demand proof that you’re certified in the procedure.

Now you have a sense of the maddening exasperation that has overwhelmed Louisianans trying to limit the coastal damage of BP’s oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Frustrated by the bureaucratic responses of BP and the federal government, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser have stepped in and taken charge of some cleanup and spill mitigation work.

Rather than sit on their hands and wait for the federal government to approve the use of skimming barges in removing oil from the gulf, they dispatched some of the vessels to prevent the muck from washing ashore. Workers on the barges, wearing protective hazardous materials suits and gas masks, cruised the waters, pumping thousands upon thousands of gallons of oil into steel tanks.

“These barges work. You’ve seen them work. You’ve seen them suck oil out of the water,” said Gov. Jindal.

Finally last week, the Coast Guard swooped in. But instead of helping, they shut down the barges and ordered them to return to shore. “You got men on the barges in the oil, and they have been told by the Coast Guard, ‘Cease and desist. Stop sucking up that oil,’ ” Gov. Jindal said.

In all, 16 barges were idled for Coast Guard inspections. Coast Guard officials said they had to confirm that the vessels had working fire extinguishers and life jackets on board. “That is the equivalent of setting up a DUI checkpoint along a hurricane evacuation route while the hurricane is making landfall,” The Silent Majority blog wrote last week.

This kind of incompetence and regulatory rigmarole is all too common for our federal overseers. It’s further proof that the government is incapable of managing complex crises, let alone fixing them, no matter which party is in the White House or in control of Congress.

“Every hour the barges are docked here is an hour they could be sucking up oil,” Gov. Jindal said. He noted that the barges were cleared to return to work Thursday — without the inspections the Coast Guard stopped operations to conduct. Heads should roll over this kind of screwup. But Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen sees things differently. “What I saw was unity of effort,” he said.

What a joke.

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