Jun 24, 2010 11:14 AM by Melissa Canone
A summary of events Thursday, June 24, Day 65 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 cap was back in place on BP's broken oil well after a deep-sea
blunder forced crews to temporarily remove what has been the most
effective method so far for containing some of the massive Gulf of
Mexico spill. Engineers using remote-controlled submarines
repositioned the cap late Wednesday after it had been off for much
of the day. It had captured 700,000 gallons of oil in 24 hours
before one of the robots bumped into it late in the morning. Bob
Dudley, BP's new point man for the oil response, said crews had
done the right thing to remove the cap because fluid seemed to be
leaking and could have been a safety hazard.
While the cap was off, clouds of black oil gushed unchecked
again at up to 104,000 gallons per hour, though a specialized ship
at the surface managed to suck up and incinerate 438,000 gallons.
The oil-burning ship is part of an armada floating at the site of
the rogue well some 50 miles off the Louisiana coast and the scene
below the surface is no less crowded. At least a dozen robotic
submarines dangle from ships at the surface on mile-long cables
called "umbilicals," with most of the undersea work taking place
within a few hundred yards of the busted well.
In Florida, thick pools of oil washed up along miles of national
park and Pensacola Beach shoreline Wednesday, as health advisories
against swimming and fishing in the once-pristine waters were
extended for 33 miles east from the Alabama line. "It's pretty
ugly, there's no question about it," Florida Gov. Charlie Crist
said. The oil reeked as it baked in the afternoon heat on a beach
that looked as if it had been paved with a 6-foot-wide ribbon of
asphalt. Park ranger Bobbie Visnovske said a family found an oily
young dolphin beached in the sand in the Gulf Islands National
Seashore on Wednesday. Wildlife officers carried it into shallow
water to revive it. They later transported it to a rehabilitation
center in Panama City, about 100 miles to the east.
The Obama administration seeks to resurrect a six-month
moratorium on deepwater drilling. The Justice Department filed
court papers asking U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman to delay his
ruling overturning the order to suspend drilling on 33 wells and
stop approval of any new deepwater permits. Several companies,
including Shell and Marathon Oil, said they would await the outcome
of any appeals before they resume drilling. Interior Secretary Ken
Salazar said he would issue a new order within the next few days.
He said it may allow drilling in areas where reserves and risks are
known and is likely to include criteria for when the ban would be
The man who inherited the Gulf oil spill response from BP's
embattled CEO said Wednesday that Americans have been too quick to
blame his company for the environmental disaster now in its third
month. "I'm somewhat concerned there is a bit of a rush to justice
going on around the investigation and facts," BP PLC managing
director Bob Dudley said after touring a New Orleans wildlife
conservation center where oil is cleaned from sea turtles. The
Mississippi native said BP has been unusually open about making its
internal investigation public and shared information that no other
Britain, home of BP headquarters, said deep-sea exploration will
continue in North Sea oil fields off Scotland despite safety
concerns raised by the Gulf spill, the country's energy minister
said Thursday. Energy Secretary Chris Huhne told an energy
conference in London that regulation is strong enough "to manage
the risk of deep-water drilling." Britain announced this month it
was doubling the number of inspections carried out at North Sea oil
rigs following the Gulf disaster.
The current worst-case estimate of what's spewing into the Gulf
is about 2.5 million gallons a day. Anywhere from 67 million to 127
million gallons have spilled since the April 20 explosion on the
Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and blew out the well
5,000 feet underwater. BP PLC was leasing the rig from owner
A leaky truck filled with oil-stained sand and absorbent boom
soaked in crude pulls away from the beach, leaving tar balls in a
public parking lot and a messy trail of sand and water on the main
beach road. A few miles away, brown liquid drips out of a disposal
bin filled with polluted sand. BP PLC's work to clean up the mess
from the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history already has
generated more than 1,300 tons of solid waste, and companies it
hired to dispose of the material say debris is being handled
professionally and carefully. A spot check of several container
sites by The Associated Press, however, found that's not always the
More than five dozen brown pelicans rehabilitated from the oil
spill in the Gulf of Mexico take flight in Texas. The 62 pelicans
arrived on Coast Guard cargo planes Wednesday and were taken to the
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge about 175 miles south of Houston.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other groups released the
pelicans and one northern gannet. Wednesday's release was the
largest to date since the offshore oil rig exploded April 20.
A federal report confirms what independent scientists have been
saying for weeks about the Gulf oil spill: Undersea oil plumes
extend for miles from the ruptured well. The report may help
measure the effectiveness of spreading chemicals to break up the
oil. Government researchers released a summary Wednesday of water
sampling conducted last month near the undersea gusher. It
describes a cloud of oil starting around 3,300 feet deep up to
4,600 feet deep and stretching up to 6 miles from the well. Levels
of oil and gas within the cloud are significantly higher than
concentrations closer to the surface. The Environmental Protection
Agency says there's been no significant harm to sea life, but
marine scientist Vernon Asper of the University of Southern
Mississippi says the levels are enough to kill fish.
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen says two contract workers helping
with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup have died. Neither death
appears to have a direct connection to the spill. 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.
A new exhibit at an aquarium in Iowa had intended to showcase
the beauty of the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, it will be void of life
to underline the environmental impact of a massive oil spill in the
ocean basin. The 40,000-gallon aquarium at the National Mississippi
River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa, was supposed to have
been teeming with sharks, rays and other fish. Two smaller tanks
were to show a seagrass bed and coral reef. Instead, says executive
director Jerry Enzler, the main tank will hold water and artificial
coral, with window stickers that look like oil.
The House has approved legislation that would give subpoena
power to the presidential commission investigating the BP oil spill
in the Gulf of Mexico. Rep. Lois Capps, a California Democrat, said
that Americans want answers from those responsible for the spill,
and subpoena power will ensure "no stone goes unturned." The vote
Wednesday was 420-1, with Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas casting
the only no vote. President Barack Obama has appointed the
seven-member commission to investigate the spill.
The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday subpoenaed BP claims
documents, after its chairman said the company has not complied
with requests to provide information on its payments. The
committee's voice vote showed bipartisan agreement for Chairman
John Conyers' efforts to release claims information to the public.
The committee also voted, 16-11, to approve a bill eliminating
limits on the amount of money that vessel owners had to pay for
deaths and injuries. The bill would let family members collect
payments for non-monetary damages such as pain and suffering.
Introduced by Conyers, D-Mich., the bill was sent to the full
House, where it will be considered along with other legislation
resulting from the oil spill.
In need of political momentum, Democrats are exploiting
Republican Rep. Joe Barton's startling apology to BP for its
treatment by the Obama administration, launching a steady,
low-budget campaign of fundraising appeals, a pair of television
commercials and Web ads. Little more than four months before
midterm elections, party officials appear to be testing ways to
maximize the gain from a comment that ricocheted across the Capitol
at a furious pace last week, and that Republicans deemed
significant enough to force Barton to recant.
To a nation frustrated by the Gulf oil spill, BP's attempts at
damage control have sometimes been infuriatingly vague. But from a
legal standpoint, that's exactly the point. With the company facing
more than 200 civil lawsuits and the specter of a Justice
Department investigation, saying the wrong thing could expose BP to
millions of dollars in damages or even criminal charges for its
executives. Inside the company, experts believe, there is a natural
tension between public relations people who want BP to project a
positive image and lawyers who don't want to be boxed into a
corner. It's a balancing act with billions of dollars - perhaps
even BP's survival - at stake.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is urging the White House to
hold a summit with East Coast governors and local officials to
ensure they are prepared if oil from the Gulf spill makes its way
up the Atlantic coastline. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, made the
request in a letter to President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
Computer models show that the oil could enter the Gulf's loop
current, go around the tip of Florida and up the coast.