MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill has now reached the mainland of Mississippi, more than 100 miles away from the well. Waves associated with tropical storm Alex washed tar balls and tar mats onto the beach road in Pascagoula today. The road had to be shut down before the oil could be cleaned up.
Earlier today I spoke with Mississippi governor Haley Barbour. He says many additional boats and skimmers will need to be deployed if Alex pushes more oil onto the beaches this week. And he says it's clear now that the original plan for defending Mississippi's coast devised six weeks ago was unsatisfactory.
Governor HALEY BARBOUR (Republican, Mississippi): Everybody felt like we had a very good plan. The Coast Guard approved it, BP and we felt like we had a good plan. The problem is it hadn't been executed very well and the Coast Guard are the first to say that they didn't do a good job with the command and control system and particularly communications.
And while some improvements have been made, we still got a long way to go. We need more skimmers. We need more equipment. And so, more than three weeks ago, when we saw what had been allocated to us, we went to some Mississippi shipyards and asked them to start manufacturing skimmers. We have now ordered 23 skimmers and we'll start taking delivery in the next few days.
BLOCK: Do you think that maybe that order for more skimmers should've gone in earlier than it did?
Gov. BARBOUR: Well, we believe that the early estimation of the number of skimmers needed was way below the fact. The federal government, Unified Command, BP, whomever, the number of skimmers, clearly today, is insufficient and we ordered it after we realized that we had this problem.
BLOCK: Governor Barbour, I'd like to talk to you a bit about your own response to the oil spill because you have been criticized for seeming to minimize how bad the problem is. You've accused the media of exaggerating how much oil is on the beaches and you've been urging tourists to come down. You said the coast is clear. The coast is no longer clear, I guess.
Gov. BARBOUR: Well, the people on the beach today in Mississippi and almost all the tourist areas, there hadn't been one drop of oil. We've had a small amount of oil. What we've tried to do is tell the public the truth. And the truth is that the national news media, particularly television, has given people the impression that the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast was ankle deep in oil.
The news media coverage did not differentiate from what was happening in Louisiana and what was not happening in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida. Even the president of the United States came down here and said exactly what I said. You know, the coast is beautiful, the beaches are pristine, the water is clear as a bell. And people shouldn't be canceling their vacations.
Yet because of the news coverage, millions, billions, perhaps, of dollars were lost by people in the tourism industry in my state, Alabama and Florida. That's not to minimize the size of this catastrophe, but it is to simply tell the truth.
BLOCK: Governor Barbour, I wonder if that's a fine line to walk. On the one hand you're worried about not having enough skimmers. You're worried about what might hit the beaches. At the same time, you're saying, come on down, the water's fine.
Gov. BARBOUR: Well, ma'am, it's not a fine line to walk. All you got to do is tell the truth. Just lay the facts out for people and people can make their own decision.
BLOCK: I wonder, Governor Barbour, if this oil gusher is testing your political philosophy in any way. You and many of your fellow Republicans champion smaller government, less regulation, more freedom for industry. Do you think maybe there is a role looking at what's happened in the Gulf for robust intervention for regulation?
Gov. BARBOUR: Well, look, in every part of the government there is a role for good regulation that is properly done. But the idea that more regulation is necessarily better, I think a very suspect idea. In the case of this well, I believe it will be shown that if the regular protocols had been followed, that this well wouldn't have blown out. We'll see what the facts are.
But I am comfortable that's what the facts are going to be. And that if there had been somebody from MMS on the well to make sure they had done it, well, maybe that wouldve made a difference. But I think right now every oil company in the world says, I don't want to pay $100 million a day to cut corners on drilling a well. And that's where I believe the market system works. Nobody's got more to lose in this deal than BP.
BLOCK: Well, Governor Barbour, thanks for talking with us.
Gov. BARBOUR: Sure.
BLOCK: That's Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi.