A disturbing exchange is buried in a routine update on the Puget Sound oil spill today.

Kathy Fletcher, director of People for Puget Sound (and, full disclosure, a friend) is quoted as saying:

“We need to figure out how we can mount an effective response to oil spills at night. And if not, we need to look at what activities need to be curtailed at night if we can’t respond.”

Fair enough. Not saying I agree, but it’s Kathy’s job to advocate for the Sound. That’s what her contributors pay her for. The obligatory rejoinder from industry follows, as expected:

“Given the fact that upward of 95 percent of the cargo that is traded with the U.S. with other countries comes by way of the sea, . . . to curtail any cargo operations during the evening or low-light conditions would severely impact the economy. It would not be feasible for our local area to endure any kind of curtailment.”

Who said this? The head of a shipping company? A spokesperson for the freighters’ association? No, it was Commander Mark Dix of the US Coast Guard.

Does the Coast Guard consider it “feasible for our local area to endure” more oil spills like the one that just happened? Oil spills undermine our economy, which now depends as much on clean water, beautiful beaches, and productive fisheries as it does on ports and shipping lanes. And oil spills undermine the ecosystems that define us as a people in this part of the planet.

Even more to the point, why is a US Coast Guard officer shilling for the shipping industry?

The mission of the Coast Guard—the job we citizens pay Cmdr. Dix to do—is

“to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic interests – in the nation’s ports and waterways, along the coast, . . . “

Maybe he got confused.