Who’s Slowing the Yellowstone River Clean Up? Not Who You Think!

"Yellowstone River"

"Yellowstone River" by www78 on flickr

So for my first post on the site I thought I would start off with an issue I have been following that has my thoughts spinning a bit.  This may go either way with most of my fellow readers and posters but I wanted to get it out there.  First off let me say that my political lean falls to the left.  The current state of the political system however has me feeling a bit skeptical with a good dose of optimism for the future.  Also I tend to be a bit leery of big corporations when it comes to the front they portray to the general public.  I mention this because the current situation in Montana and the Yellowstone river oil spill that happened a few weeks back has me taking some second glances at what is playing out.  The Governor, who I actually generally like and think has done a good job, is pulling some strange moves and Big Oil (Exxon) seams to be handling the clean up well and playing nice with the EPA.

In response to the recent oil spill in the Yellowstone River, Exxon actually did something that not all companies have done over the last few years—they admitted responsibility, partnered with the EPA and others to set up a joint command, and then set out to clean up the spill. Strangely, the one man who should be applauding the way in which the cleanup is being handled is refusing to cooperate.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer abruptly pulled out of the joint command center, leaving many people on both sides of the aisle wondering what he is doing to assist with the cleanup. Senator John Tester (D-MT) said,  “It’s about getting all the resources we can, everybody working together, whether its EPA, DEQ, Exxon, county commissioners, municipalities, and getting this all cleaned up as quick as possible.”

The EPA was equally flummoxed. An EPA spokesman that that Gov. Schweitzer’s decision to leave the joint command was the first time he learned of the governor’s concerns. Now, Schweitzer is engaging in round-the-clock criticisms of the EPA-led clean-up effort. This constant criticism, political grandstanding, and his decision to set up a duplicate state-run cleanup effort are creating redundancies, turf wars, and bureaucratic nightmares that are slowing the cleanup of the spill.

When a democratic politician bashes the EPA and members of his own party question his decision making, there’s only one explanation for the motivation behind Schweitzer’s action: political opportunism. Schweitzer’s political ambitions are well known and a recently released poll put the Governor within striking distance of defeating incumbent U.S. Senator Max Baucus in a Democratic Party primary. The poll also revealed that Schweitzer is underperforming with deep-pocketed environmental groups that are hostile to Montana’s energy sector.

Elections are the bedrock of our republic, but cleanup efforts must be based on sound science rather than politics. The EPA is in control of the joint spill command because it possesses unparalleled institutional knowledge and real world experience in the area of oil spill disasters. The agency’s approach to the cleanup prioritizes public safety and the environment. The Governor’s rhetorical attacks on EPA, on
the other hand, are designed to generate news coverage and maximize publicity. For the sake of Montana… science, not politics.

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