Fox News' Steve Doocy falsely claimed that "foreign ships that want to come help in U.S. waters can't unless" the Jones Act is "lifted by the president." In fact, foreign ships are already involved in the oil spill response, and the Jones Act allows for exceptions in the case of an oil spill.
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Doocy claims foreign ships can't help in the Gulf unless Jones Act is "lifted by the president"
From the June 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
DOOCY: It's day 70 into the Gulf crisis, and as oil keeps gushing into the water, the Jones Act remains in place. That means foreign ships that want to come help in U.S. waters can't unless it's lifted by the president. Florida Senator George LeMieux has sent President Obama a formal letter asking him to waive the Jones Act and allow international cleanup equipment into the Gulf. He's joining us this morning from Pensacola.
OK, you know, Senator, so many people say every skimmer on the planet should be down there in the Gulf, off the coast of Florida and Mississippi and Alabama and Louisiana, and they're not. And you think it's because of the Jones Act. Why?
LeMIEUX: Well, I think that's part of the problem. They cite the Jones Act. They cite other legal encumbrances that are keeping these ships from coming to the Gulf of Mexico.
In fact, foreign-flagged ships are already involved in oil spill response
National Incident Command: "15 foreign-flagged vessels are involved" in the response. A June 18 document released by National Incident Commander Adm. Thad Allen and a June 15 press release from the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center state: "Currently 15 foreign-flagged vessels are involved in the largest response to an oil spill in U.S. history. No Jones Act waivers have been granted because none of these vessels have required such a waiver to conduct their operations as part of the response in the Gulf of Mexico."
Acting Maritime administrator: "[T]wenty-three percent of the vessels responding to the oil spill are not U.S.-flag," and they are "not in violation of the Jones Act." David Matsuda, acting Maritime administrator, stated in June 17 congressional testimony that "[d]uring the current situation in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S.-flag vessels have been used in every situation where U.S. vessels and crew are available. Seventy-seven percent of the vessels providing oil spill response in the Gulf are U.S.- flagged." He added: "Even though twenty-three percent of the vessels responding to the oil spill are not U.S.-flag, none of these are known to be in violation of any U.S. law or regulation. Vessels that do not call upon points in the United States are not in violation of the Jones Act."
Foreign equipment has also been used. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stated during the June 15 edition of Fox & Friends that "foreign entities are operating within the Gulf that help us respond" to the oil spill. Gibbs also stated in a June 10 press briefing that "we are using equipment and vessels from countries like Norway, Canada, the Netherlands. There has not been any problem with this. If there is the need for any type of waiver, that would obviously be granted. But this -- we've not had that problem thus far in the Gulf." Fox News reporter Brian Wilson wrote on June 10 that "[t]he Coast Guard and the Administration are quick to point out that some foreign technology is being used in the current cleanup effort," including containment boom and skimmers.
Officials have repeatedly rejected claim that Jones Act has hindered cleanup
Oil spill response ships operating outside of three miles offshore are not subject to Jones Act. Rear Adm. Kevin Cook, Coast Guard director of prevention policy, stated during a June 17 House hearing (accessed via Nexis): "I would not call [the Jones Act] an impediment because foreign-flagged skimmers can be -- they're treated as oil spill response vessels. And if they're operated outside of three miles, they are not impacted by the Jones Act." For reference, the Deepwater Horizon rig was reportedly drilling about 50 miles offshore. Admiral Allen also stated during a June 25 press conference:
If the vessels are operating outside state waters, which is three miles and beyond, they don't require a waiver. All that we require is an Affirmation of Reciprocity, so if there ever was a spill in those countries and we want to send skimming equipment, that we would be allowed to do that, as well, and that hasn't become an issue yet, either.
Similarly, in the June 18 document, the National Incident Command stated that "foreign specialized skimming vessels may be deployed to response operations if the foreign country provides the same privileges to U.S. vessels. The use of such vessels under these circumstances would not violate the Jones Act or require a Jones Act waiver." And Matsuda said in the June 17 hearing that the Jones Act "allows the Coast Guard federal on-scene coordinator to make an exception to the Jones Act in the aftermath of an oil spill like we are dealing with here. This exception process is designed to allow immediate attention and processing of requests for oil spill response vessels."
National Incident Command: "[W]e have not seen any need to waive the Jones Act" but are prepared to process waivers "should that be necessary." In the June 18 document, the National Incident Command stated: "While we have not seen any need to waive the Jones Act as part of this historic response, we continue to prepare for all possible scenarios, and that's why Admiral Allen provided guidance to process necessary waivers as quickly as possible to allow vital spill response activities being undertaken by foreign-flagged vessels to continue without delay should that be necessary." The document further states:
In no case has the Federal On Scene Coordinator (FOSC) or Unified Area Command (UAC) declined to request assistance or accept offers of assistance of foreign vessels that meet an operational need because the Jones Act was implicated.
Republican Jones Act expert reportedly said there is no evidence that the law is hindering cleanup. The Chicago Tribune reported on June 25:
The administration and Allen said the Jones Act had not prevented the response team from accepting the offers. In a June 11 news briefing, Allen, the national incident commander, said, "We are more than willing to consider Jones Act waivers," and noted that foreign vessels were being used. A statement issued June 18 said that 15 foreign-flagged vessels were involved in the cleanup, and none required Jones Act waivers.
That's in part because of a specific exemption in the act that can allow for the use of foreign "oil spill response vessels," said H. Clayton Cook, a Washington attorney and expert on the Jones Act.
Cook, a Republican, said there had been longstanding opposition to the act, which many see as protectionist and a bow to unions, but there was no evidence that the Jones Act was standing in the way of the cleanup. "This is being used for political purposes. It's a classic red herring."
FactCheck.org: "Jones Act has yet to be an issue in the response efforts." FactCheck.org noted on June 23, "Some critics have charged -- falsely -- that Obama's refusal to waive the Jones Act has kept foreign vessels from assisting in cleanup efforts." FactCheck.org stated:
In reality, the Jones Act has yet to be an issue in the response efforts. The Deepwater Horizon response team reported in a June 15 press release that there are 15 foreign flagged ships currently participating in the oil spill cleanup. None of them needed a waiver because the Jones Act does not apply. The Jones Act is a trade and commerce law that was enacted in 1920 as part of a larger Marine Merchant Act. It requires all trade delivered between U.S. ports to be carried in U.S. flagged vessels constructed in the United States and owned by American citizens. The law states its purpose is to develop a merchant marine for national defense and commerce.
Why was the Jones Act waived as part of the Hurricane Katrina response, and why hasn't it been waived now? Katrina inflicted massive infrastructure damage, which restricted the availability of key resources. According to the Deepwater Horizon response team: "A Jones Act waiver was granted during Hurricane Katrina due to the significant disruption in the production and transportation of petroleum and/or refined petroleum products in the region during that emergency and the impact this had on national defense." The Deepwater Horizon spill has yet to affect infrastructure or oil and gas availability; the damage is environmental, and foreign vessels are approved for delivering resources and conducting offshore skimming. Although the Jones Act is currently not applicable, the federal government has taken steps to expedite the waiver process should the oil spill response require a Jones Act waiver for trade and commerce.
Fox & Friends has repeatedly disregarded facts to accuse Obama admin. of rejecting foreign assistance
Fox & Friends has repeatedly suggested that no international aid has been accepted. While discussing the Jones Act on June 11, Fox & Friends' co-host Brian Kilmeade misleadingly referenced "our inability or decision not to use the rest of the world's offers to help us skim up the sludge." During the June 15 broadcast, Glenn Beck said that Obama "needs to explain why we haven't -- why we turned down all the international help." And on June 23, co-host Gretchen Carlson falsely claimed that "international help has been offered, but not accepted." In each case, Fox & Friends falsely blamed the Jones Act.