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Wednesday, June 9

BP Gulf Oil Spill Crisis: Updates, and Associated Press investigative report on BP comes out with guns blazing

Wow. AP has put together a great investigative report on BP's negligent contingency planning for oil spill accidents. The report, filed today (June 9), is titled AP IMPACT: BP spill response plans severely flawed and grimly details all the ways that BP planners screwed up. Unpleasant reading but there's also something satisfying about it, seeing it all down in black and white and giving BP no wiggle room.

AP's eye-opener was published just in time to prepare U.S. legislators for the grilling that BP CEO Tony Hayward is to receive June 17 in Washington from the energy and commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

The AP report is lengthy so I'm just going to provide the link to it, with the reminder that AP reports don't stay long on the internet.

AP also reported last night:
Gulf oil leak may be bigger than BP says

NEW ORLEANS — While BP is capturing more oil from its blown-out well with every passing day, scientists on a team analyzing the flow said Tuesday that the amount of crude still escaping into the Gulf of Mexico may be considerably greater than what the government and the company have claimed.

Their assertions — combined with BP's rush to build a bigger cap and its apparent difficulty in immediately processing all the oil being collected — have only added to the impression that the company is still floundering in dealing with the catastrophe.

The cap that was put on the ruptured well last week collected about 620,000 gallons of oil on Monday and another 330,000 from midnight to noon on Tuesday and funneled it to a ship at the surface, said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's point man on the crisis. That would mean the cap is capturing better than half of the oil, based on the government's estimate that around 600,000 to 1.2 million gallons a day are leaking from the bottom of the sea.
A team of researchers and government officials assembled by the Coast Guard and run by the director of the U.S. Geological Survey is studying the flow rate and hopes to present its latest findings in the coming days on what is already the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

In an interview with The Associated Press, team member and Purdue University engineering professor Steve Wereley said it was a "reasonable conclusion" but not the team's final one to say that the daily flow rate is, in fact, somewhere between 798,000 gallons and 1.8 million gallons.

"BP is claiming they're capturing the majority of the flow, which I think is going to be proven wrong in short order," Wereley said. "Why don't they show the American public the before-and-after shots?"

He added: "It's strictly an estimation, and they are portraying it as fact."

Other members of the team also told AP they expect their findings to show higher numbers than the current government estimate, but they weren't ready to say how much higher.[...]
The same AP report also brings some good news:
The debate over the flow rate came as workers in bulldozers piled sand 6 feet high along barrier islands bordering Louisiana to protect the environmentally fragile areas from the spill, which has already coated islands and pelican rookeries in thick, brown, sticky crude.

"This is finally something that can help," fishing guide Dave Marino said of the sand barrier effort. "It looks like this is something that may work."

Attempts to skim the oil progressed as well. Boats fanned out across the Gulf, dragging boom in their wake in an attempt to corral the oil. But it's an enormous task.

In some spots, the oil is several inches thick and forms a brown taffy-like goo that sticks to everything it touches.

John Young, chairman of Louisiana's Jefferson Parish Council, said additional equipment has been ordered and more dredgers will be moving into the area soon, along with barges that will help block the passes.

"It's nice that BP has put up the money, but they need to ramp up not only the manpower but the equipment out there because we're losing the battle," Young said. "Unfortunately, we're on day 50 and it's too little too late, but I guess it's better late than never."[...]
BP's negligence about planning for the consequences of an oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico doesn't let the U.S. government off the hook. This morning McClatchy News Service reported:
A decade ago, U.S. government regulators warned that a major deepwater oil spill could start with a fire on a drilling rig, prove hard to stop and cause extensive damage to fish eggs and wetlands because there were few good ways to capture oil underwater.

The disaster scenario -- contained in a May 2000 offshore drilling plan for the Shell oil company that McClatchy has obtained -- is now a grim reality in the Gulf of Mexico. Less predictably, perhaps, the author of the document was the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, the regulatory agency that's come under withering criticism in the wake of the BP spill for being too cozy with industries it was supposed to be regulating.

The 2000 warning, however, indicates that some federal regulators were well aware of the potential hazards of deepwater oil production in its early years, experts and former MMS officials told McClatchy.[...]
AP also reports today on Admiral Thad Allen's turnaround on the issue of BP claims processing:
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen has written to BP CEO Tony Hayward demanding "more detail and openness" about how the company is handling mounting damage claims in the wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill.

Allen reminded Hayward in the letter dated Tuesday that the company "is accountable to the American public for the economic loss caused by the oil spill" and said he recognized Hayward has "accepted responsibility" for it.

At the same time, the man that President Barack Obama named as national incident commander in the wake of the April 20 oil rig explosion and fire told Hayward that BP is failing to provide "information we need to meet our responsibilities to our citizens."

Allen had said earlier this week at a news conference that he felt BP was struggling to efficiently process relief claims from individuals and businesses in the stricken area, attributing that to the company's lack of experience in the area.

In the letter made public Wednesday, Allen said that "the NIC and our state counterparts have made several requests for additional information which we have not received."

He noted that officials had asked the company for access to its claims database, "with personally identifiable information removed."

"Access to this level of detail is critical to informing the public as to how BP is meeting its obligations as a responsible corporation," Allen said. "I expect a response from BP on this critical issue as soon as possible."

Allen noted a meeting scheduled to take place with BP executives later Wednesday, at which the issue of claims processing was to be discussed.

"We need complete, ongoing transparency into BP's claims process including detailed information on how claims are being evaluated, how payment amounts are being calculated and how quickly claims are being processed," Allen told Hayward in the letter.

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