Archive for May 21st, 2010


Yulsman on Lubchenco, Birnbaum, and BP

May 21, 2010

While I’m off in the woods, check out Tom Yulsman on the Deep Horizon debacle. He has this to say on why Jane Lubchenco should be pissed that her advice wasn’t heeded:

There’s no question that anger is justified. In fact, I suspect Jane Lubchenco herself (chief of NOAA) is pretty darn angry that Elizabeth Birnbaum, director of the federal Minerals Management Service, ignored her agency’s request to hold off on issuing deep water drilling permits until the work of the administration’s Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force was completed (scheduled for last December).

In fact, if I were Jane Lubchenco, I’d be apoplectic. If MMS director Birnbaum hadn’t ignored NOAA’s request, the BP oil spill never would have happened. That’s because the MMS approved, on Birnbaum’s watch, the drilling permit for the well that is now despoiling the Gulf.

It may well be that Lubchenco should be apoplectic, but it seems to me just as reasonable that she may have reason to breathe a sigh of relief. Most of the blame for not holding off on the drilling permits can’t be laid at her feet.

It’s not that Lubchenco shouldn’t be angry that she wasn’t listened to, but only that, she’s a political appointee. So far as my understanding of most political actors and career bureaucrats, it’s more likely that she’s worried about her own hide getting tanned. And that, at least, should be in the clear. It’s Birnbaum who should be pissed at herself for not following Lubchenco’s advice.