In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, the Times rarely if ever focused on the myriad state and local failures (predominantly Democratic officials) that contributed to the import of the tragedy, instead almost exclusively faulting President George Bush and the federal response at every turn.
But another Louisiana tragedy - the BP oil spill, pitting a Democratic president against Republican governor Bobby Jindal - has conveniently awakened the paper to the realization that local officials have responsibility too, in Saturday's front-page story from New Orleans by Campbell Robertson and John Collins Rudolf: "Louisiana Wants U.S. Help, and Its Own Way."
For weeks, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has attacked BP and the Coast Guard for not having adequate plans and resources to battle the oil spill.
But interviews with more than two dozen state and federal officials and experts suggest that Louisiana, from the earliest days of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has often disregarded its own plans and experts in favor of large-scale proposals that many say would probably have had limited effectiveness and could have even hampered the response.
The state's approach has also at times appeared divided: while some state officials work alongside the Coast Guard and BP every day, others, including the governor, have championed a go-it-alone approach.
Such a stance is popular in a place justifiably skeptical of federal disaster response after Hurricane Katrina. The federal response, at times slow and disorganized, has been a matter of grave concern to this state, with its fragile and complicated coastline.
Mr. Jindal, a Republican like all but one of the other gulf state governors, has been alone among them for his publicly critical stance toward the federal agencies in the response.
But experts said such antagonism could actually slow down that response.
But a review of Louisiana's prespill preparation suggests that the state may be open to the same criticisms that Mr. Jindal has leveled at BP and federal authorities.
The state has an oil spill coordinator's office. Its staff shrank by half over the last decade, and the 17-year-old oil spill research and development program that is associated with the office had its annual $750,000 in financing cut last year. The coordinator is responsible for drawing up and signing off on spill contingency plans with the Coast Guard and a committee of federal, state and local officials.
Some of these plans are rife with omissions, including pages of blank charts that are supposed to detail available supplies of equipment like oil-skimming vessels. A draft action plan for a worst case is among many requirements in the southeast Louisiana proposal listed as "to be developed."
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