Markey says Jones Act doesn't apply in gulf spill - foreign ships are helping out he says

The Obama administration has been mostly mum on the subject, but when it was brought up by former Shell Oil executive John Hofmeister on NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday, he was quickly reprimanded by Massachusetts Democratic Representative Ed Markey.

MR. HOFMEISTER:  It would have to have a waiver.  There was a waiver after Katrina to help do whatever needed to be done.  There should be a waiver now. This is a unique, unprecedented situation.  The U.S. hasn't made supertankers in--ever.  Supertankers have always been made in foreign shipbuilding yards.  And we need to bring that kind of scale to bear, in my opinion.

MR. GREGORY:  Congressman, you're shaking your head.  You don't...

REP. MARKEY:  The, the Jones Act, the Jones Act does not apply to situations like this, emergency situations, relief situations.

MR. GREGORY:  You should be able to get those ships in there right away.

REP. MARKEY:  Yeah, and they can.  There has been no request from another country that has been denied by the Obama administration at all.

But is Markey right?  He wasn't challenged by Gregory, because the skillful Congressman then went on to make a point that had nothing to do with the question, but was something that he wanted to say get on the air.

There has been considerable confusion as to whether other nations have offered up their tankers for a cleanup, and if the U.S. is now actually allowing boats with foreign affiliation to be part of that effort.

The Houston Chronicle reported a week and a half ago that the Dutch govt. offered their help and were turned down.  But the paper now reports that the U.S. is using foreign ships to help battle the spill:

U.S. ships are being outfitted this week with four pairs of the skimming booms airlifted from the Netherlands and should be deployed within days. Each pair can process 5 million gallons of water a day, removing 20,000 tons of oil and sludge.

At last week's forum in St. Petersburg on the Gulf oil spill crises, it was mentioned during the discussion with the media panel that there were fears that the media (and/or the public) would soon grow weary of the story, and soon it would train its cameras and news pages to other news.

Although in our short attention span theater culture that is certainly a legitimate fear, the fact of the matter is is that the media are fully invested in this story right now, as is Capitol Hill, and until the oil is capped, it will continue to dominate media coverage.

But that doesn't mean there's always new information out there.  For example, Florida U.S. Democratic Senator Bill Nelson made an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, where he essentially said the same thing he did on the same program two weeks before - that he believes the military should be in "command and control" of the oil spill.  Specifically he says the Navy should be in charge.

Another difference this week on the program was that he joined in that viewpoint from California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer in expressing that sentiment.  But Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Fox News that the Navy will not be getting involved, and thinks its limited how much the DOD can do, though he's willing to try whatever's requested of him.

But perhaps most interestingly is the question of the Jones Act, the 90-year-old protectionist law that that prohibits foreign-flagged boats and crews from doing port-to-port duty within 3 miles of the US coast.

Several Florida lawmakers, most prominently Attorney General Bill McCollum and U.S. Senator George LeMieux, both Republican, have been calling on the Obama administration to waive the law and allow foreign tankers to come into Gulf waters to help skim the oil out of the water.

On Friday, LeMieux wrote to Obama about this, and Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison proposed legislation to waive the law.

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