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Ken Salazar fumes, hair booms nixed: Gulf spill update

deepwater_Horizon_fire.jpg
Department of the Interior
Situation hairy: The Deepwater Horizon rig, before it sank.
As oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster begins to stain shorelines along the Gulf Coast, beauticians across the nation are learning that one of the more feel-good (and dubious) solutions proposed in recent weeks to the spreading slick won't be tried after all.

A couple of weeks ago, stories like this one explained how salon owners and pet groomers were gathering boxes of discarded hair to ship to Louisiana, to be used in booms to help soak up the oil. UPS was offering free shipping, and the whole grassroots effort seemed to be one way people could combat their sense of helplessness in the wake of the tragedy that left thousands of barrels of oil a day spewing from the deepwater drilling operation.

But that well-intended effort turned out to be another, uh, hare-brained idea.

All those packages of luscious locks and pet fluff are now sitting in a warehouse. After what one donor organization calls "mixed signals," British Petroleum has declared that the hair booms won't work because they become waterlogged and sink.

Since government and corporate types evidently knew this critical fact months ago, why didn't anybody tell the donors? Chalk it up as one more snafu in a pile that's growing by the minute.

Meanwhile, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar continues to spin over the spill and promise reform. An update from his office touts a recent follow-up to the DOI Inspector General's report on ethical lapses within the Minerals Management Service, the agency that oversees offshore drilling, highlighting problems in the Louisiana field office: "Staffers were found to have accepted sport event tickets, lunches, and other gifts from oil and gas production companies and used government computers to view pornography."

Salazar is quick to remind people that he identified MMS as a top-priority problem when he first took office last year and has since taken steps to tighten ethical standards and royalty collection procedures. That's all fine and dandy, but a true reform of the pro-drilling culture within DOI is going to take more than a few edicts about free lunches and porn-surfing. None of the reforms the new Secretary has implemented made any significant difference in the way MMS handled offshore drilling safety and emergency preparedness procedures until it was too late.

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