Readings — From the August 2014 issue

Slick Fix

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From a May 20, 2014, public-oversight hearing by the House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs, regarding updated regulations proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Noah Matson is vice president for landscape conservation and climate adaptation at Defenders of Wildlife. Vance McAllister is a Republican who represents Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District. At the hearing, Matson presented photos of failing oil installations in various national wildlife refuges, including leaking pipes and storage drums and a tank repaired with duct tape and a garbage bag.

vance mcallister: Mr. Matson, to go back to those pictures that you showed. Do you know when those repairs were made? The garbage bag, for instance?
noah matson: That garbage-bag picture was taken a couple months ago. And I believe it’s still unrepaired.
mcallister: Okay, so you took a picture of someone who was innovative and, rather than leaving the fluid to drip on the ground, repaired it with duct tape and a garbage bag, yet you seem to be very upset about that. We take a garbage bag and fix it and keep it from leaking, and you’re still not happy, and you come to Washington, D.C., and testify before Congress and want to throw fits because some guy took initiative, and you use it as an example of how the system’s run amok.
matson: I have a similar picture from a year before that one with the same setup. So they never came back to repair it.
mcallister: Was it leaking? Did it get into the ground, or was it still working?
matson: [Laughs]
mcallister: Fair question.
matson: I don’t have an answer for that.
mcallister: It was contained, was it not?
matson: Anybody can come, a storm can come puncture the garbage bag and there’s a spill, done.
mcallister: Could have, should have, would have. It didn’t. What I’m saying is —
matson: Do you want a garbage bag repairing a well on your property?
mcallister: Absolutely, before it runs on the ground, but I would hope that they would come back and the proper maintenance would be taken.
matson: Exactly.
mcallister: I can take a picture of a vehicle with baling wire and bubblegum that’s still working. That don’t mean I want to drive it to California, but as long as it gets me home at the end of the night, I’m good. Look, there’s bad apples in every bunch you pick. It just aggravates me that the body of Congress would be wasted with someone taking pictures of something that is fixed. It may not be fixed in the way you want it, but it’s not leaking. You don’t know if it was fixed that morning. You don’t know if they’ve been using this for a while, saying, “You know what, we’ve found the best line of garbage bags there are and they’re better than any of the pipes we can go buy down at the pipe-supply store.” I did see some sheen going off in the water and you’re absolutely right that needs to be taken care of. But out of the thousands of wells across this nation, you brought us four pictures .
matson: I could have taken up my entire five minutes with pictures. These regulations would be specifically affecting those bad apples.
mcallister: I come from a business background, I don’t come from sitting at a desk trying to write laws and legislate the risk out of everything. I’m not an attorney for the ducks.

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