How to deal with BP

Action Memo prepared for Hernando County, FL in response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It contains a situation analysis and recommended actions for managing their risk. Note that the recommended actions include accessing the BP claims process to secure advance payment on approved actions. The memo is from Scott Harris of IESO, L.L.C.

I like the quote at the end.

June 28, 2010

Pamela S. Harris, FPEM
Emergency Management, Specialist III
Hernando County Sheriff’s Office
18900 Cortez Blvd.
Brooksville, FL 34601

Re: Situation summary for potential Deepwater Horizon spill response

Ms. Harris,

From our detailed conversations and published information, I offer these key points in support of immediate action by Hernando County:

1. Emergency Final Order by Florida Governor Charles Crist on May 12, 2010 finding that the Deepwater Horizon spill “has the potential to cause widespread damage” and has created “a state of emergency” throughout Hernando County.

2. The declared state of emergency presents “an imminent or immediate danger to the public health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the State of Florida…”

3. The Emergency Final Order finds that “as a result of the emergency, immediate action by Florida’s citizens and government is necessary to prevent, contain or reduce damage to natural resources and property…”

4. The Emergency Final Order, among other things, confirms British Petroleum (BP) as the Responsible Party (RP) for the spill, requires reimbursable activities to be conducted in a manner consistent with the National Contingency Plan (NCP) and finds that the urgency for action is such that normal procedures for obtaining authorizations must be suspended “so as not to prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency.”

5. The Emergency Final Order, among other things, expedites actions that may be taken related to solid waste management, waters, wetlands, beaches, coastal systems and submerged lands (including booming, fencing and sorbents) and requires coordination with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on protected and imperiled species.

6. Unless modified or extended, the Emergency Final Order expires on June 29, 2010.

7. Hernando County Sheriff Nugent is calling for more local preparations with cost recovery from BP.

8. Hernando County has identified approximately 21,000 feet of sensitive shoreline requiring protection, in addition to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

9. At least one endangered mammal, the Florida Manatee, is directly threatened by the spill. Manatees are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act, the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act and Section 12 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (as “Strategic Stock”).

10. The NCP and the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) describe appropriate actions, authorities and responsibilities for responding to a release or threat of release of oil. A full discussion is beyond the scope of this document, but of immediate importance:

a. Authorizes the designated On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) to direct all federal, state, and private response activities at the site of a discharge.
b. Establishes the unified command structure for managing responses to discharges through coordinated personnel and resources of the federal government, the state government, and the responsible party.
c. Establishes the general pattern of response to be executed by the OSC, including determination of threat, classification of the size and type of the release and supervision of thorough removal actions.
d. Authorizes the OSC to determine whether a release poses a substantial threat to the public health or welfare of the United States based on several factors, including the size and character of the discharge and its proximity to human populations and sensitive environments. In such cases, the OSC is authorized to direct all federal, state, or private response and recovery actions, and may enlist the support of other agencies or special teams.
e. OPA provides funding for responses to oil releases under the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF), provided certain criteria are met. The responsible party is liable for federal removal costs and damages as detailed in section 1002. Agencies assisting in a response action may be reimbursed.

11. Petroleum hydrocarbon contamination of sediments would threaten the proposed Hernando County dredge project, delaying or preventing removal and disposal.

Recommended actions:

1. Contact BP claims to confirm the availability of advance payment for appropriate actions. As we discussed, they have an expedited process for local governments, and a mechanism to prepay claims for appropriate response activities that are consistent with the NCP and within their established rate schedule. I have already called to test the process, and they confirmed this information.

2. Identify a Subject Matter Expert (SME) with proven experience in similar situations. You have my interactive bio, and we have discussed my credentials at length.

3. Bring SME in for face-to-face initial briefing and orientation to develop operational awareness and comfort level on both sides.

4. Develop an Action Plan, including a cost estimate that includes integrated surveillance, preparation, response and recovery components and addresses the specific needs of Hernando County.

5. Submit the Action Plan and cost estimate to BP for advance payment.

6. Implement the Action Plan immediately. Certain actions, such as booming or tar screen installation, if used, have longer lead times and cannot be put off until the last minute with any real hope of success.

7. Maintain accurate cost accounting for future claims and audits. The preferred mechanism is to designate a qualified internal Finance Section Chief as part of the Incident Command structure who can speak intelligently on County fiscal matters, commit resources and respond to inquiries.

8. Designate a qualified internal Public Information Officer (PIO) to address media interaction, including regular briefings on progress, setbacks, funding delays, goals and strategies. Include regular updates on whether BP is meeting their funding commitments and how that is affecting the Hernando County response. Be candid, and give credit where it is due. If they fail, BP must hear about it on the nightly news. Likewise, if they meet your expectations and their commitments, they must hear that on the nightly news.

As a former Federal On-Scene Coordinator for the U.S. EPA, I am very experienced in these matters and confident that we can make this work. Please feel free to contact me at any time to discuss and implement your successful Action Plan. I urge you to move quickly, and control as much as possible the impact on Hernando County. I will leave you with very good advice from arguably the most successful risk manager in known history:

“Do not depend on the enemy not coming; depend rather on being ready for him.” The Art of Warfare (Sun-Tzu)

Thank you for your consideration.