Many people argue that the Federal Government deserves no blame in the handling of the BP oil spill. The claim is that any comparisons to Katrina are apples to oranges since the Federal Government could have done something in the minutes after Katrina due to the advanced warning yet they chose not to act. The argument continues that with the Deep Horizon oil well explosion there were no advanced warnings and the government is limited in their options and expertise in how to handle such an event. Most of this argument has already been debunked because there were plenty of signs of regulatory creep in the MMS as well as a highly publicized NOAA oil spill contingency plan that was ignored until it was too late. This is not the end of the story. There is new evidence emerging about just how absent the Federal Government has been in their response to the oil catastrophe in the Gulf.
“Three days after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch government offered to help.
It was willing to provide ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms, and it proposed a plan for building sand barriers to protect sensitive marshlands.
Hurricane Katrina, Four Years Later: Monday, August 29, 2005 will never be forgotten by those who were [un]fortunate enough to live through it.
[from the editor] After reading what Palast reports, Michael Chertoff’s statements are quite unsettling. Looking back, again.
by Greg Palast
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
There’s another floater. Four years on, there’s another victim face down in the waters of Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Ivor van Heerden.
I don’t get to use the word “heroic” very often. Van Heerden is heroic. The Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, it was van Heerden who told me, on camera, something so horrible, so frightening, that, if it weren’t for his international stature, it would have been hard to believe:
“By midnight on Monday the White House knew. Monday night I was at the state Emergency Operations Center and nobody was aware that the levees had breached. Nobody.”
On the night of August 29, 2005, van Heerden was shut in at the state emergency center in Baton Rouge, providing technical advice to the rescue effort. As Hurricane Katrina came ashore, van Heerden and the State Police there were high-fiving it: Katrina missed the city of New Orleans, turning east.
What they did not know was that the levees had cracked. For crucial hours, the White House knew, but withheld the information that the levees of New Orleans had broken and that the city was about to drown. Bush’s boys did not notify the State of the flood to come which would have allowed police to launch an emergency hunt for the thousands that remained stranded.
“Fifteen hundred people drowned. That’s the bottom line,” said van Heerden.
He shouldn’t have told me that. The professor was already in trouble for saying, publicly, that the levees around New Orleans were no good, too short, by 18″. They couldn’t stand up to a storm like Katrina. He said it months before Katrina hit – in a call to the White House, and later in the press.
So, even before Katrina, even before our interview, the professor was in hot water. Van Heerden was told by University officials that his complaints jeopardized funding from the Bush Administration. They tried to gag him. He didn’t care: he ripped off the gag and spoke out.
It didn’t matter to Bush, to the State, to the University, that van Heerden was right— devastatingly right. Exactly as van Heerden predicted, the levees could not stand up to the storm surge.