Sunday, June 13, 2010

Gary Nerry, Unintended Victim Of Government Red Tape

As many of us who believe in strict enforcement of governmental regulations designed for safety and protection of consumers and the environment, the concept is idyllic in theory but detrimental far too often in practice.

As far back as the Franklin Roosevelt administration, Americans have fought the battle of what's too much and what's too little in our regulation of commerce.

My concept has always been to do just enough to level the playing field and keep the bastards honest. What I don't know is where you draw that line in the sand.

Our policymakers far too often are driven by knee-jerk reactions. Rather than solving the nuclear waste problem, they made restrictions so rigid no new atomic energy plant has been built in the United States since the Three Mile Island power plant accident in Middletown, Pa., on March 28, 1979.

For years, the more extreme wing of the environmental movement has called for closing down off-shore oil drilling and now gleefully point to the Deepwater Horizons oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as "gotcha" and "I told you so."

President Obama's decision for a moratorium on Gulf drilling pending studies and recommendations and safety inspections I do not consider a knee-jerk reaction.

But the safety inspections are completed for shallow drilling in less than 500 feet of water and the Minerals Management Service has issued a new set of rules with more to come.

Yet, the drilling operators are laying off workers claiming confusion and indecision within the agency that reaches to top management in the Interior Department.

It's the domino effect of unintended consequences that makes a tragic situation worse as it reaches truck driver Gary Nerry of New Iberia, La., who is losing $4,000 a week hauling pipe to oil rig operators.

This story is as much about Nerry as it is about the chaos that is engulfing the Gulf Coast while BP and the Obama administration engage in a urinating contest of whose in charge.

If you think Obama is in charge as he claims to be, read on, my friends.

The Houston-based Seahawk shallow water oil rigs have 1,000 drillers about to be laid off because of foot-dragging by government regulators.

Here's an account reflecting the industry's position as related in the Washington Post Sunday:

Rig owners say that confusion over safety regulations issued last week by the Interior Department and uncertainty about additional rules Interior says are on the way could extend delays in the issuance of shallow-water permits, creating a de facto moratorium. That in turn could force companies to idle rigs and furlough thousands of workers. Since the April 20 (Deepwater Horizons) accident, the number of rigs actively drilling in shallow waters of the gulf has dropped by half.

James W. Noe, general counsel of Hercules Offshore, the biggest shallow-water rig operator in the gulf;

"Putting semantics aside, there are no new permits being issued in shallow waters." 

Rick Storey, Seahawk's director of sales and marketing:

"We've submitted the paperwork we think they're asking for, but nothing's really clear. The regulations are so vague."

Randall Stilley, chief executive of Seahawk:
It is not the new safety regulations that are causing problems for shallow-water rig operators. "We can live with that," said Stilley. But, he said MMS officials are now too nervous to issue new permits without approval from senior administration officials.

Chett Chiasson, executive director of Louisiana's Port Fourchon:

Not only rig owners and workers are hurt -- the costs are spilling onto shore too. (He) said the six-month deep-water moratorium along with delays in shallow-water drilling could mean a loss of $750 million for the area and layoffs among the 4,000 workers there who provide support to rigs. 
 "It used to be that if fishing was down, people would go work on the rigs," Chiasson said. "Now you've got fishing and shrimping gone and now the drilling side of our economy is gone. It leaves us in a bad, bad situation." 

"If we don't bring in stuff for them then we don't make nothing and we stay at home," Nerry said, looking out at his 18-wheeler.

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