Congressman Melancon on the Oil Spill Cleanup

Congressman Melancon on the Oil Spill Cleanup

By John King, USA - June 9, 2010

KING: By our conservative estimate, based on government and BP figures, 3.5 times more oil has now spilled into the Gulf than spilled from the "Exxon Valdez". Joining me now to discuss this catastrophe for his state -- he's in Washington tonight -- but Democratic Representative Charlie Melancon is the congressman for this part of Louisiana.

Congressman, let me start with what you just heard from there from the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. As you know, many in the community (INAUDIBLE) even as they fight the devastating impact of the spill want that moratorium on deep water exploration and drilling lifted. They believe it is critical to their jobs, critical to the economy, the way of life here. Should the administration move more quickly or is the pause button the right approach?

REP. CHARLIE MELANCON (D), LOUISIANA: Well I think that any stop could cause a problem because the restart time is unknown. Right now with an economy that we're trying to revitalize and particularly one that was a bright spot in this country, the last thing we need is for a collapse of our economy. So having a moratorium and as I expressed to the president last Friday in new Orleans, I suggested that we can ask this commission to look at those items that they can go through very quickly that will get us expedited to keep the rigs active and keep them working so that we don't collapse the oil economy, oil and gas economy, fabrication, offshore service industry that we have in south Louisiana. It's very important to us down there. So I would rather not see any pause or interruption, but we can go about policing this thing, gear up minerals management or whatever agency it is, and get out there and do the job quickly. If you need, put people that will --

KING: Obviously the White House -- I hate to interrupt, sir -- I hate to interrupt, sir, but obviously the White House is not listening to you. MELANCON: I haven't -- I was supposed to be going to the White House tomorrow. I understand that I've been bumped and I understand why I've been bumped for the families of the victims. So I'm not arguing that. But I'm hoping that before Friday, I'll have an opportunity to sit down with the White House, sit down with Rahm Emanuel. When people that -- that Secretary Salazar had a discussion with said that they didn't suggest or agree with the moratorium, I think that gives -- should give the secretary and the president an opportunity to review the moratorium because I think part of the decision was based upon these six people suggesting that it was the thing to do and in fact they didn't.

KING: Sir, I went out today with the Coast Guard, looked at this site where this happened, flew over ground zero to see that they're saying still flaring (ph) so much natural gas and more importantly to see that so much fresh oil keeps coming to the surface. There are dozens of skimmer boats out there they are trying to scoop up what they can. As you fly back into shore you see some of it in small patches. Then you see the brown patches that have been obviously hit by the dispersants. But they're still floating toward shore. Are there enough resources on the water right now, does the Coast Guard have enough out there or does it need more vessels whether it can find them here in the United States or anywhere around the world?

MELANCON: Part of the frustration I have not only with our government, but with the oil industry is we -- they are drilling with 21st century technology and we're trying to clean up with 20th century technology. That dog doesn't hunt. We should have the best -- our government probably should have had a commission after "Valdez" about having new technology developed and in place, sort of like a fire extinguisher in your kitchen if it's possible to do those kinds of things.

That's not been done. Is there enough? No, there's not enough. And obviously with the amount of volume that's coming out of that hole, I doubt we'll ever see enough of it. I don't know the answer. The frustration keeps building in the people. I just hope that we'll start allowing in some of these vessels that can come and help whether they're foreign flagged or not, at least on an emergency situation. I will work with the White House, with the unions, with whomever it is to get whatever equipment we need in here to help us keep this Gulf cleaned up as best we can until we shut it down.

KING: Sir, I'm holding up a map. I believe one of your constituents, the man who runs the levees here in Montegut brought me today. And he was making the point that five years ago after Katrina everybody promised they would fill this in. They would help restore the wetlands that were destroyed. He was pointing to, he was shrugging, talking about the devastation again in this community saying that five years ago, the government did not learn its lessons.

And his worry was that the government this time will not learn the right lessons as well. As you watch this go forward, first the short term, Thad Allen met with BP today trying to say look a lot of people down here are wondering what's happening with the claims process. Is that -- is Thad Allen's action necessary? Some say that's political show to go into a meeting, but others say that he needs to go in there and shake BP into being more transparent and more quickly. What's your take?

MELANCON: Two weeks ago when Thad Allen showed up, I started seeing a change in the attitudes. I think BP was believing that they were controlling things and the local Coast Guard people were more permissive trying to work things out. Thad Allen, I worked with him after Katrina, I can say some great things about him. He's a standup guy, matter of fact, no bull.

This isn't for show for Thad Allen. He didn't have to stay here to do this job. He's doing it because we know he can get it done. He knows he can get it done and I think we've seen a turning point. It isn't where we want to get. It may never get to where we want to get, but at least I've got somebody that I think is going to take the bull by the horns and go out there and force BP to do what the law says we have the ability to do.

KING: Congressman Melancon, we appreciate your time tonight. Please keep us posted when you do get that meeting with the president. And sir, we wish you and all your communities the best of luck.


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