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Coast Guard defends grounding oil-sucking barges in Gulf

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Jonathan Strong
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      Jonathan Strong

      Jonathan Strong, 27, is a reporter for the Daily Caller covering Congress. Previously, he was a reporter for Inside EPA where he wrote about environmental regulation in great detail, and before that a staffer for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). Strong graduated from Wheaton College (IL) with a degree in political science in 2006. He is a huge fan of and season ticket holder to the Washington Capitals hockey team. Strong and his wife reside in Arlington.

Sixteen crude-sucking barges are back in the Gulf of Mexico working to clean up oil, but the Coast Guard is defending its decision to ground the vessels because it couldn’t verify whether there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board.

“The Coast Guard is not going to compromise safety … that’s our No. 1 priority,” Coast Guard spokesman Robert Brassel told The Daily Caller.

The decision to ground the ships is under intense scrutiny after Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal expressed his deep frustration with the decision Thursday.

“You got men on the barges in the oil, and they have been told by the Coast Guard, ‘Cease and desist. Stop sucking up that oil,’” Jindal said to ABC News.

Brassel said the barges are now “back in operating order.”

On Thursday night, the Incident Commander in Houma, Roger Laferriere, decided with the captain of the port in New Orleans to inspect the barges when they realized the ships did not have a certificate of inspection to demonstrate safety equipment on board. Thursday morning, the ships were inspected and grounded because they did not have the proper fire-fighting and life-saving equipment. There were also concerns about the stability of the barges. During the day Thursday, the problems were fixed, and the barges are back out on the water today.

Brassel’s defense of the decision, he said, was based on the “general Coast Guard perspective” on safety matters. Brassel repeatedly declined to say whether the Coast Guard balances safety considerations in an urgent, disaster response scenario like what is happening in the Gulf versus ordinary circumstances when time is not of the essence.

Other local authorities have also decried the Coast Guard’s actions in responding to the spill. For instance, county commissioner Wayne Harris, whose Okaloosa county has gone rogue on the oil spill, said Coast Guard ships ran over booms the county had set up to stop the invading oil.