Following up on my story this morning about the National Guard throwing away oil booms in Grand Isle National Park, Louisiana this morning.

FDL contacted Rick Steiner, the University of Alaska professor the  who was forced to resign for trying to keep Shell Oil from drilling offshore in Bristol Bay.  He explained that there are two kinds of booms:  one absorbent, one non-absorbent.  The absorbent type are thrown away after use, but the non-absorbent ones should be cleaned and reused.

We sent him the photos of boom going into the dumpster and asked him which type of boom these were. "The booms being placed in the dumpster in this photo are containment booms, which should be cleaned and reused, not thrown away," said Steiner. "This episode underscores the theatric nature of the spill response – that it mainly serves as a palliative and PR effort by BP."

Indeed, the poor use of oil booms underscores the "cleanup theater" unfolding along the gulf coast. Where media are allowed on the beaches, cleanup crews use full protective gear. Otherwise cleanup workers do not use protection. The one animal rescue location is open for one hour a day for media.

Like Exxon’s response to the Valdez spill, it appears as though BP is simply interested in appearing to be responding to the disaster, if not having any actual value. As one veteran of Exxon Valdez put it:

As the spill progressed, Exxon treated the cleanup like a public relations event. At the crisis center in Valdez, company officials urged the deployment of "bright and yellow" cleanup equipment to avoid a "public relations nightmare." "I don’t care so much whether (the equipment is) working or not," an Exxon executive exhorted other company executives on an audiotape our plaintiffs cited before the Supreme Court. "I don’t care if it picks up two gallons a week."

It’s hard to see any material difference between Exxon’s "bright and yellow" response and BP’s cleanup theater. Now we have confirmation that the bright orange booms thrown away yesterday – seemingly without a spot of oil on them – could very well be redeployed around Grand Isle and the rest of the Gulf.

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