Comment on NRDC’s help in “Cleaning Up BP’s Mess in the Gulf of Mexico”

NRDA session at LSU 09.08.2010 063

NDRDA session at LSU (Image by lsgcp via Flickr)

Do you follow the Natural Resource Defense Council’s “Switchboard” feed on Twitter? A recent one caught my eye: David Pettit’s BlogCleaning Up BP’s Mess in the Gulf of Mexico

How will BP be forced to clean up the mess it caused in the Gulf of Mexico? There is a process created for oil spills by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 called a natural resource damages assessment, or “NRDA,” usually spoken as “nerd-a” by NRDA nerds. There is a good summary of the NRDA process as carried out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) here. The bottom line is that BP will pay to investigate and restore the damage it did.

Petit points out that NRDA assesses the damage done, the restitution needed for those damages, and finally the implementation of restitution. Later on he writes,

One thing notably absent from this process is the opportunity for public participation. The NOAA regulations only require one public meeting, to take comments on the trustees’ proposed restoration plan. This is pretty late in the process. NRDC is working with NOAA and at the grassroots level to have NOAA allow more and meaningful public input into all three stages of the NRDA process. If there is litigation, it is unclear whether NRDC or other groups could become parties to the lawsuit.

I commented on the post.

One thing notably absent from this process is the opportunity for public participation.”

I respectfully disagree.

We are a representative democracy with the right to petition our government. We have representatives, who we petition, who may change the law (and therefore the regulation) in order to meet the will of the people. One has the ability to comment on all of the process at any time one chooses.

The NRDC does not represent the will of the people any more than the NRA does. Each organization has the ability to petition its government to communicate its wishes.

That the NRDA process is closed to public sniping strikes me as a good thing. We elect officials. The administration, in turn, puts competent individuals in charge of government agencies. These agencies contain employees hired for their competence, knowledge, skills, and abilities to see that the regulations have the intended effects of the enabling legislation.

Should the NRDC disagree with the NRDA process, they have the obligation to petition their government to change the legislation, not to moan that they do not have a place at the table to supposedly represent me.

Post to Twitter