Jake Tapper of ABC News got to the bottom of the story of the Maine boom production company that is facing bureaucratic difficulties in getting the federal government to utilize their product.
As the oil spill crisis has worsened, members of the public and media have seized upon various ways the government could be doing more to either plug the hole or alleviate the environmental damage.
One such story has described boom manufactured by an Auburn, Maine, packaging company called Packgen that’s been sitting in storage waiting to be delivered to the Gulf. Four weeks ago, in four days, Packgen manufactured 80,000 feet of boom, though neither the government nor BP had placed any orders for boom with his company.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, has expressed frustration at BP taking its time to make assess the boom.
When I mentioned, in vague terms, Lapoint’s frustration, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen asked me to give him the information, which I did.
Over the weekend, Capt. Ron LaBrec from Coast Guard Public Affairs told me that according to a BP quality control inspector the PackGen boom did not pass an initial quality control test.
“The only issue was the end connectors,” Lapoint said. So, he said, “we changed it to the universal connector, so there shouldn’t be any problems at all.”
But he remains frustrated. “I had two engineers go down to the Gulf. I was told it had to be the universal connector. I can’t tell you the miles of boom coming in from overseas that doesn’t have the universal connector.” He called the pushback against his boom “hogwash.”
There are specific standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials, an international standards organization, that test methods “to determine strength and buoyancy characteristics for boom and end connectors,” LaBrec told me. “It is the duty of a responsible party to meet the protective requirements for boom, so it is prudent for a company to test the equipment so they know it will perform as designed.”
That’s how private business works. You have an incentive to create the best product possible at the lowest price. In this case, the Maine company knew the government won’t purchase their product without it meeting minimum standards, so they have every incentive to make sure those standards are met.
From the looks of it, this is just another case of a bureaucratic snafu.
Since the Obama administration isn’t on the case, I’m glad Jake Tapper is in charge.