By Rep. Jim Gerlach, PA 6th Dist.

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Rep. Jim Gerlach.

The British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon spill has demonstrated that not only does oil and water not mix, but throw in bureaucracy, and you have a combination that can devastate the environment, idle entire industries and cause gut-wrenching misery.

Nearly three months have passed since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, uncorking a geyser of natural gas and oil and claiming the lives of 11 workers.

Like most Americans, I am extremely frustrated that so much time has passed with so little evidence that executives at BP or the leaders of federal agencies have a workable plan to cap the gushing well and limit the environmental and economic damage.

A recent CBS/New York Times nationwide poll showed the public’s patience is wearing thin, with 59 percent of Americans saying that the president does not have a clear plan for combating the spill.

Americans are eager to help find solutions to cap the gushing well and clean up every drop of oil.

BP has reportedly received more than 20,000 proposals from small businesses and entrepreneurs who want to stop the estimated 30,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil polluting the Gulf each day. But the company is considering just 500 of these proposals.

Troubling testimony during a recent Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing also revealed major hurdles stand in the way of developing and implementing new technologies that could potentially aid with the Gulf cleanup.

The federal government and BP need to get their acts together and stop wasting precious time in putting an end to this environmental and economic catastrophe. Every available resource must be committed to this effort.

The same kind of ingenuity and engineering know-how that our nation marshaled to repair the Hubble telescope orbiting 355 miles above the earth must be applied in capping this leaking oil well 5,000 feet under water. Neither BP nor the federal government should stand in the way.

The White House should immediately make sure a law passed in 1920 known as the Jones Act is not standing in the way of allowing our foreign allies to pitch in with cleaning up the spill.

The Jones Act requires ships involved in mercantile trade in U.S. waters to be built, owned and operated by Americans.

There have been conflicting reports about whether the Jones Act led to the federal government turning down offers from foreign nations to provide skimmers to capture some of the leaking oil.

Let’s eliminate all doubt and avoid potential bureaucratic delays by temporarily waiving the Jones Act restrictions to make it perfectly clear that any and all offers to help will be accepted.

The House of Representatives has already passed bipartisan measures that will hold BP accountable and give the White House access to funds needed for the cleanup.

The first bill, which President Obama signed into law, allows the administration to withdraw additional money from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to better respond to the BP disaster.

Another bill I supported would grant subpoena power to the National Commission investigating the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the response to this terrible tragedy.

BP must be responsible for cleaning up the spill and compensating the fishing crews, hotel owners and countless other workers whose livelihoods have been jeopardized by this spill and the slow response.

Agreeing to set up a $20 billion escrow fund to pay claims for damages and lost wages is an encouraging sign that BP will meet its tremendous obligations to those in the Gulf region.

Taxpayers did not create this mess, and should not bear an undue burden in repairing the widespread damage it has caused.

Americans have a long and proud history of overcoming steep challenges.

Whether reuniting the nation after the Civil War, rebuilding our economy after the Great Depression or reaffirming our commitment to freedom and democratic principles after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, we have always rallied to prevail in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Now, it’s time to redouble our efforts and commit every resource available in the Gulf to show the world that while oil and water will always separate, Americans will always unite in a time of national crisis.

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Limerick PA’s congressman, Jim Gerlach. He represents Pennsylvania’s 6th District, which includes parts of Berks, Chester, Montgomery and Lehigh counties. Gerlach supplied this article and is responsible for its content. His opinions are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of The Posts. Its publication is part of The Posts’ Sunday Contributor series, for which guest authors are invited to offer submissions. If you’d like to become a Sunday Contributor, please e-mail The Post.

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