Although it hardly seems possible, there has been a heightened level of confusion surrounding the government’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf this week. After being forced to create this escrow account, the White House appears to be maneuvering to force BP to use this new account to pay damages to competitors who have lost jobs as a result of the President’s decision to continue to his oil drilling moratorium. During an interview on Monday, Kenneth Feinberg, the “pay czar” who has been tasked with overseeing the BP compensation fund, told CNN that his authority had grown to include paying damages to those affected by the President’s moratorium. As The Times-Picayune reported on their website:
“Yes, I now have discovered — I didn’t realize this until yesterday — that the moratorium claims will fall under my jurisdiction,” Feinberg said in an interview Monday on CNN.
“That’s a huge development, and we didn’t know that before?” replied the CNN reporter.
“I didn’t either,” Feinberg said.
Feinberg’s claim that he would pay claims to rig workers and other related companies affected by the moratorium from the $20 billion escrow fund set up by BP was met with resistance by the energy giant who said that this latest claim was outside the scope of their original agreement with the White House:
Last week, BP said that the workers should apply only to the $100 million fund and that the company would not pay rig claims through the $20 billion.
Bob Dudley, the BP executive now in control of the company’s Gulf response, told reporters that the $100 million fund was set up as a “good-will gesture” in negotiations with The White House.
Dudley said the company should not have to pay claims related to the moratorium, which he said was caused by a government decision.
The confusion caused by this public back-and-f0rth only highlights claims by Gulf coast governors like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana who have suggested that the cost of the President’s refusal to allow other oil companies to continue their drilling will far exceed the $100 million set aside.
Even Feinberg admitted to being confused, confessing “The reason there is so much confusion on the moratorium is because I am getting conflicting signals here.”
But this confusion is likely the result of an Administration that is making short-term political decisions rather than judgments based on what is most needed to get the spill under control. From his primetime bravado during an interview with Matt Lauer to pushing for a partisan, job-killing “cap-and-tax” bill in his address to the nation—an address meant to focus on the government’s response to oil spill.
Rather than stirring up more confusion, the White House should be studying Heritage’s Oil Spill To-Do List, a list of 10 action items that can be taken to help address the problem instead of creating new ones.