On the Diane Rehm radio show yesterday, senior John McCain (R-AZ) adviser and former Koch Industries lobbyist Nancy Pfotenhauer defended McCain’s flip-flop in support of offshore drilling by repeating the conservative myth that “we survived Hurricanes Katrina and Rita with no significant spills.” She claimed that the technology has been “refined enough” to “protect environmentally sensitive areas”:
And then there was a concern in the past about the technology. Did the technology exist, was it refined enough if you will, no pun intended, to be able to protect environmentally sensitive areas. And so — he’s been a conservationist all his life — he was concerned about that. And I think the things that have happened since then . . . [W]hen we survived Hurricane Katrina and Rita with no significant spills, I think that had a very powerful impact on his feeling about the technology.
Listen here (and watch a photo montage of Katrina’s oil spills):
As these photographs from Katrina Destruction, SkyTruth, and the National Geographic confirm, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused an ecological disaster on the scale of the Exxon Valdez. One of the hundreds of spills, the onshore Murphy Oil spill, devastated an entire neighborhood.
McCain’s dirty energy spokeswoman is echoing the false claim she made July 14 on MSNBC:
When Senator McCain opposed lifting the ban in the past, it was because there were concerns about environmental capability. Like, could we do this and still maintain a pristine environmental um uh climate and and area around the drilling? And basically, what we’ve seen is the technology has progressed to the point where we could do that. We withstood Hurricanes Rita and Katrina and didn’t spill a drop.
ThinkProgress reported that MSNBC’s David Schuster confronted her with the facts and forced her to retract her false claim on July 17:
SCHUSTER: In fact, the US Minerals Management Service said that Katrina and Rita caused 124 offshore spills for a total of more than 743,000 gallons of refined products in spills. So Nancy, do you want to take back what you said?
PFOTENHAUER: Well, I actually do. I was misinformed, and my embarrassment aside . . .
REHM: And joining us now is Nancy Pfotenhauer. She’s senior economic adviser and campaign spokesperson for the McCain campaign. Good morning to you Nancy.
PFOTENHAUER: Good morning Diane, thank you for having me on your show.
REHM: And thanks for joining us. Talk about why John McCain previously opposed offshore drilling and why he has changed his mind.
PFOTENHAUER: Ok, well look, the first and I think biggest concern he had with it in the past was protection of state’s rights because he is a strong believer that the states should have the ultimate say so, the ability to say yes or no to whether this drilling occurs off their shoreline. And so, when proposals had been raised in the past, the states were not given that option. So it went further than lifting the moratorium in the past, it was kind of force-feeding the situation if you will, so there was that objection. And then there was a concern in the past about the technology. Did the technology exist, was it refined enough if you will, no pun intended, to be able to protect environmentally sensitive areas. And so — he’s been a conservationist all his life — he was concerned about that. And I think the things that have happened since then. One, he put forward a proposal that would allow the states to have the ultimate say so and also share in any revenues that were generated by opening these areas to offshore drilling. Secondly, when we survived Hurricane Katrina and Rita with no significant spills, I think that had a very powerful impact on his feeling about the technology.