HE DIDN’T say yes, but he also didn’t say no. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus just brushed aside Gov. Bob Riley’s request that the president meet with Gulf Coast governors to talk about oil spill fines for BP and other corporations.
In his reply to Gov. Riley, written on behalf of the president, Secretary Mabus merely changed the subject, supplying information about his own progress on restoration and recovery, and asked for the governor’s continued support. But his letter had a head-patting, reassuring tone — the kind you use with a child who’s anxious, not with a governor who’s eager to act.
By ignoring the need for a meeting, President Obama risks losing an opportunity to build a consensus on how much money the Gulf states need to recover and how BP fines should be distributed.
To his credit, Secretary Mabus said the president has urged Congress to pass legislation to allow a “significant amount” of fine payments to be sent to the states. If Congress is unsuccessful, however, fines charged under the Clean Water Act could be placed in a trust for future spills, rather than going to the areas where the money is needed the most.