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BP preparing to launch “static kill” as early as tonight.

The AP (8/2) reports, “The only thing keeping millions more gallons of oil out of the Gulf of Mexico right now is a rush job: an experimental cap that has held for more than two weeks but was never meant to be permanent. As soon as this week, crews will be pumping in some insurance.” Now “engineers are preparing to launch a so-called static kill as early as Monday evening, shoving mud and perhaps cement into the blown-out well to make it easier to plug the gusher up forever and end the Summer of the Spill.” While “the effort carries no certainty,” BP’s “engineers and petroleum experts say it’s the clearest path yet to choke the blown-out well and make it even easier for the crews drilling the relief well to ensure oil can never again erupt from the deep-sea well.”

The Washington Post (8/2, Achenbach) reports, “If all goes perfectly, the one-two mud punch will literally be overkill. The static kill will terminate Macondo, and the bottom kill will be more like a confirmation test, akin to poking the body to make sure it’s dead.” However, “optimism has been a dangerous attitude throughout the oil spill disaster, and the federal point man for the spill response, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, has warned against complacency.”

Local officials urge BP not to dismantle clean-up operation yet. The Wall Street Journal (8/2, Gonzalez) reports that amid high expectation for BP’s “static kill” procedure, local officials are calling on the company not to remove its equipment or workforce from the area until the full extent of the spill’s damage can be fully assessed.

Congressional panel says too much dispersant used to break up spilled oil. The CBS Evening News (8/1, lead story, 2:40, Teague) reported in its lead story, “There are lingering questions about the safety of using so much chemical dispersant to break up the oil in the Gulf.” According to “a congressional subcommittee…documents show Coast Guard officials allowed BP to use much more dispersant that previously reported, despite an order by the EPA to use it rarely.” Rep. Edward Markey was shown saying, “There has been an unprecedented underwater scientific experiment going on for months, where toxic chemicals have been shot into toxic oil.” CBS continued, “BP officials say the company did cut back on dispersant used after the government order and has worked closely with federal agencies since.”

Congress Questions Oil-Dispersant Usage

BC World News (8/1, lead story, 2:50, Kofman) also reported that “there is concern about what happened to” the oil, “in particular, the use of more than 1 million gallons of chemical dispersants to break it up.” Doug Suttles, BP COO, was shown saying, “We did what we felt was the appropriate amount.” The Wall Street Journal (8/2, Ball) also reports the story under the headline “Congress Questions Oil-Dispersant Usage.”

Markey says Coast Guard allowed use of dispersants. The AP (8/1, Hebert) says Rep. Edward Markey’s Energy and Environment subcommittee obtained data that show BP, with approval from the US Coast Guard, continued to “extensively use” dispersants, even after the EPA directed it to stop using the “toxic” chemicals on the water surface except in “rare cases.” The documents “show the Coast Guard approved 74 waivers over a 48-day period after the restrictions were imposed, resulting in hundreds of thousands of gallons of the chemicals. … The EPA directive ‘has become more of a meaningless paperwork exercise than an attempt … to eliminate surface application of chemical dispersants,’ Markey wrote in a letter sent Friday to retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government’s point man on the spill.”

The Washington Post (8/1, Fahrenthold, Mufson) adds, “In an interview Saturday, Allen defended the decisions to grant the waivers, saying that overall use of dispersants declined sharply after that May 26 order to limit their use. The total use of dispersants underwater and on the surface declined about 72% from its peak, according to the EPA. Allen said that on some days the amount of oil on the surface justified a ‘tactical’ decision, by on-scene Coast Guard commanders, to spray some dispersants.”

The New York Times (8/1, Wald) says, “In some cases, BP asked for permission after it had already applied the chemicals, the letter said. And in one case, the Coast Guard approved the use of a larger volume of dispersants than the company had applied for. As an example of the conflicting numbers, Mr. Markey said that in a request filed on June 16, BP told the Coast Guard that in the previous several days it had used a maximum of 3,365 gallons of dispersant in a single day. But in e-mails to members of Congress giving updates on the spill response, the company said it had used 14,305 gallons of dispersant on June 12 and 36,000 gallons on June 13.”

Wrangling over liability may impede oil companies’ cooperation in Gulf cleanup. The AP (7/31) reported, “BP, Halliburton and Transocean are engaging in a billion-dollar blame game over the blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico” while also “depending on each other to finally plug up the environmental disaster. Workers say the companies’ adversarial relationship before Congress, in public statements and maybe one day in the courts isn’t a distraction at the site of the April 20 rig explosion, where Transocean equipment rented by BP is drilling relief wells that Halliburton will pump cement through to permanently choke the oil well.” But “at least one expert said government probes and potential for lawsuits can’t help but chill communication between the companies.”

Professor argues for full economic damages, no punitive damages against BP. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (8/2), Emory University economics professor Paul H. Rubin writes that BP should be fully liable for economic damages caused by the Gulf oil spill, as plaintiffs had no pre-accident relationship with BP and thus could not bargain in advance over standards of care or damages. Rubin also argues that BP should not be held liable for punitive damages, as those should be reserved for cased where the injuring party might be able to conceal its culpability.

House panel seeks all spill-related research from BP scientists. The Los Angeles Times (8/1, Roosevelt) reports, “As BP recruits scientists to assess damage from its massive oil spill and provide expert testimony in lawsuits, a congressional committee is demanding to see all its spill-related research contracts, warning BP America Chairman Lamar McKay against ‘any effort to muzzle scientists.’ An investigation by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and recent media accounts ‘have raised questions about the potential suppression of scientific data and analysis concerning restoration of the Gulf of Mexico,’ said a letter to McKay by committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D- Beverly Hills) and Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of an energy subcommittee.”

US may widen range of spill estimate. Bloomberg News (7/30, Klimasinska) reported, “The Obama administration, which plans within a few days to announce a new determination for how much oil BP Plc’s leaking Gulf of Mexico well was spewing, may widen the range of its estimate because of difficulties assessing the flow, said a scientist involved in the research. ‘There’s just a lot of uncertainty because there was no monitoring system put in place,’ said Ira Leifer, a University of California, Santa Barbara researcher and a member of panel of scientists consulting the US Energy Department on the spill. At stake are numbers that could be used to help determine London-based BP’s penalty for the largest US oil spill on record.”

Oil-damaged wetlands may have long wait for recovery. The Los Angeles Times (8/1, Semuels, Lin) reports, “Although thick, sprawling oil slicks have vanished from much of the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, pockets of goo still menace delicate wetlands and there is no effective way to clean them up, experts said. The best hope for the soiled bayous, some biologists said, may be to wait for Mother Nature to do its own cleaning. In the meantime, some patches of marsh will probably die.”

Allen dismisses speculation about early well plug

Allen dismisses speculation about early well plug. McClatchy (7/9, Seibel), in an article titled, “Thad Allen Scoffs At Idea That BP Will Finish Relief Well Early,” reports Allen “dumped cold water on suggestions that BP might be able to plug the well in time for its July 27 announcement of second quarter earnings. Speaking by conference call to reporters from Theodore, Ala., Allen said he thinks that a mid-August date is still the most realistic for a relief well to have intercepted the runaway well and killed it by filling it with heavy drilling mud and concrete.” Allen is quoted as saying, “I’ve been around these folks for long enough to know that you need to under-promise and over deliver.”
The Washington Post (7/9, Kaufman, Achenbach) also reports Allen “pointedly stuck to the official government estimate that the leak will be plugged by mid-August. If the effort succeeded earlier, Allen said, ‘we’d all jump for joy.’ … With so many imponderables, he said, predicting a July finish seemed overly optimistic.”
According to the CBS Evening News (7/8, story 4, 3:00, Couric), “BP has said for weeks now come mid-August those relief wells will be done,” but “now it’s actually talking about an earlier finish” and that “is actually making some people angrier.” CBS noted “one theory why BP is now hinting at an earlier finish,” is “July 27 date is also when BP reports second-quarter earnings to nervous shareholders,” and “for every leaked barrel, BP faces potential fines of $4,300. At 60,000 barrels — the current estimate — that’s $258 million a day. Finish by July 27 rather than August 15, that’s a potential savings of almost $5 billion.”

Gulf Oil Spill Events from Thursday July 8, 2010

Some oil spill events from Thursday, July 8, 2010

A summary of events Thursday, July 8, Day 79 of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began with the April 20 explosion and fire on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased by BP PLC, which is in charge of cleanup and containment. The blast killed 11 workers. Since then, oil has been pouring into the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well.
A relief well being drilled deep into the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico to shut down the gushing well could be completed ahead of a long-set deadline of mid-August only if conditions are ideal. National Incident Commander Thad Allen said the relief well is expected to intercept and penetrate the Deepwater Horizon well pipe about 18,000 feet below sea level within seven to 10 days. But they won’t know how long it will take to stop the oil until they get there. If everything goes perfectly and weather doesn’t intervene, it could begin working by late July.
Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle said Thursday she was wrong in calling BP oil’s $20 billion victims’ compensation program “a slush fund,” backtracking just hours after her widely criticized remark. She told a Las Vegas radio station that President Barack Obama strong-armed BP executives to set up the fund. “My position is that the creation of this fund to compensate victims was an important first step — BP caused this disaster and they should pay for it,” she said a day later.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has called a special session of the state Legislature to get a constitutional ban on offshore oil drilling in Florida waters on the November ballot. The session will be held July 20 to July 23. Crist said he has the support of Panhandle legislators, where some beaches have been oiled by the massive Gulf of Mexico spill. But legislative leaders in areas so far unaffected have been uncooperative. The amendment would require 60 percent approval from voters in November.
The giant Taiwanese oil skimmer known as ‘A Whale’ is getting another chance to prove its value in the Gulf of Mexico. But the leader of the federal response, Thad Allen, doubts the effectiveness of the “A Whale.” Allen said Thursday it seems more useful in a huge pool of oil than in thousands of smaller slicks. Bob Grantham, spokesman for TMT Shipping, says the U.S. Coast Guard has approved another week of testing.
An outspoken Louisiana official wants the Coast Guard to lift restrictions on news organizations covering the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said he’s drafting a letter to the Coast Guard, BP and President Obama opposing a recent rule keeping the public and media about 65 feet from containment boom and vessels participating in the cleanup. He says the only way to maintain public confidence in the cleanup is to make it as transparent as possible.
The exasperation with BP felt by residents of the Gulf states is spreading to shareholders — and some are taking the oil giant to court. BP shares have lost about $85 billion in value. The toll for institutional investors who hold 79 percent of the company — including public and private pension plans — is around $67 billion. At least five individual investor suits have been filed, along with BP employees.
Kevin Costner’s company has sent an oil-skimming vessel to help clean some of the crude that has fouled the Gulf of Mexico. The actor told workers and visitors “the machine I once dreamed of is here to help you.” The Ella G, now one of the Vessels of Opportunity, was retrofitted to receive oil and water from the skimmer, separate the oil and place it in storage tanks, and return the cleaned water to the Gulf. It had once been an offshore supply barge.
The well has spewed between 86 and 169 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, according to federal estimates. That’s enough oil to fill about 3.4 million standard bathtubs.

Administration pushing BP to boost oil recovery, swap caps.

Administration pushing BP to boost oil recovery, swap caps.
The CBS Evening News (7/8, story 4, 3:00, Couric) reported, “On day 80, nearly three months into the spill, the White House told BP to speed up the containment operations. The company is already trying to hook up a third ship to siphon the oil and the Obama Administration wants it to put a new cap on the gushing well while the weather’s still good.”
The New York Times (7/9, Broder) reports, “With a weeklong window of favorable weather opening in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration is pressing BP to move quickly on two operations that could double the amount of oil captured from the gushing well. An oil recovery ship known as the Helix Producer, capable of capturing up to 25,000 barrels a day, has been waiting near the crippled well for more than a week, unable to connect to the well because of high winds and waves from Hurricane Alex.” The Times notes that the hurricane also “delayed deployment of a new, tighter-fitting cap for the well that not only will be able to capture more of the spewing oil but could potentially shut down all oil releases from the well.”
AFP (7/9) says Adm. Thad Allen “wrote to BP managing director Bob Dudley saying that after talks to be held in Houston on Friday the British energy giant must hand over ‘detailed plans and timelines’” regarding “its next steps in the fight to stop the…spill.”

BP Oil Spill – Cap back in place after daylong removal due to accident.

The AP (6/24, Kunzelman) reports, “Oil had spewed uncontrolled into the Gulf of Mexico for much of the day Wednesday before engineers reattached a cap being used to contain the gusher and direct some of the crude to a surface ship.” The logistics coordinator on board the Discoverer Enterpriser said “that after more than 10 hours, the system was again collecting the crude.” BP “later confirmed the cap was back in place, but said it had been hooked up about an hour and half earlier. The coordinator said it would take a little time for the system to ‘get ramped back up.’”

The Washington Post (6/24, Achenbach) reports, “The Deepwater Horizon well became an uncapped geyser once again Wednesday.” The “morning mishap with the makeshift cap on the well ended a 24-hour period of relative success. On Tuesday, the cap had managed to capture 16,668 barrels (700,056 gallons) of oil; 10,429 more barrels (438,018 gallons) were flared through a separate containment operation that continues uninterrupted. The amount was the highest yet contained since the April 20 explosion.”

The New York Times (6/24, Robbins) reports incident commander Adm. Thad Allen of the Coast Guard, “at a briefing in Washington, said a remote-controlled submersible operating a mile beneath the surface had most likely bumped a vent and compromised the system. Live video from the sea floor showed oil and gas storming out of the well unrestricted. By evening, the cap was back on, nestled in place on the eighth try after about 90 minutes of effort.”

Coast Guard investigating command structure on Deepwater Horizon.

The Los Angeles Times (6/24, Hamburger) reports a top Coast Guard official, Rear Adm. Kevin Cook, “told the House Education and Labor Committee on Wednesday that his agency would be investigating the command structure aboard the Deepwater Horizon to see if that played a role in the confusion surrounding the rig’s April 20 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.” Cook said, “We do need to clarify who was in charge.” The Times adds Cook was “testifying with a panel of other government agency heads about safety issues facing oil and gas industry workers. An Interior Department official pledged at the hearing that the agency would issue new mandatory safety guidelines for oil rig and cleanup workers, dozens of whom have already reported illnesses.”

Pensacola beaches “covered in oil.”

Pensacola beaches “covered in oil.” NBC Nightly News (6/23, story 5, 1:50, Potter) reported Pensacola, Florida, “residents and tourists awoke to the day they hoped they would never see, with their entire beachfront covered in oil. It rolled ashore overnight and kept coming all day, pushed along by southeast winds. Skimmer boats arrived to stop it but oil still got past them. Beachgoers were shocked and saddened by what happened to the pure, white sand.”

Gulf marine ecosystem may be rapidly changing.

ABC World News (6/23, story 8, 1:15, Gutman) reported on evidence of a “marine biologist’s doomsday scenario: sharks thrashing” in the shallow waters off Alabama. Bob Shipp, University of Southern Alabama: “What we’re really witnessing may be a shift in the whole ecosystem feeding structure, the food web.” Gutman: “Biologists say marine life is fleeing the spill zone as animals would a forest fire.” Moby Solangi, Institute for Marine Mammal Studies: “The habitat is shrinking. We have tens of thousands of square miles now affected. These animals are moving away.”
The New York Times (6/24, Lehren, Gillis) reports, “Fearing that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will deal a severe blow to the bluefin tuna, an environmental group is demanding that the government declare the fish an endangered species, setting off extensive new protections under federal law.”

Two BP Oil Spill cleanup workers have died, one apparently a suicide.

Two cleanup workers have died, one apparently a suicide. The CBS Evening News (6/23, story 3, 2:40, Couric) reported, “We learned today two cleanup workers have died.” CBS (Cobiella) added, “We don’t know much. One apparently was a suicide, the other some sort of swimming accident, but neither apparently directly connected to the spill or cleanup.” The AP (6/23) reports incident commander Adm. Thad Allen “said Wednesday in Washington that one man was killed by what investigators later called a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Allen said the other worker’s death involved swimming. He would not provide more details.”
The Mobile Press-Register (6/24, Busby) reports Alabama charter boat captain William Allen Kruse shot and killed himself Wednesday morning “just before his vessel was scheduled to set out to take part in oil cleanup and protection efforts, investigators said.” Coroner Stan Vinson “said witnesses told investigators that Kruse had been upset about the loss of business caused by the closing of fishing grounds and public perceptions of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”
The Los Angeles Times (6/24, Hennessy-Fiske, Fausset) says the “apparent suicide…was a grim reminder of the mental health toll that may haunt the Gulf of Mexico region for years as industries are damaged and estuaries are despoiled by the BP oil disaster.” One charter boat captain said, “How can you deal with watching the oil kill every damn thing you ever lived for in your whole life?” The Washington Post (6/24, Hedgpeth, Fahrenthold) also reports on the apparent suicide.

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