May 24, 2010 7:40 PM by Melissa Canone
By The Associated Press
A summary of events on Monday, May 24, Day 33 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 at a rate of at least
210,000 gallons per day.
At least 6 million gallons of crude have spewed into the Gulf,
according to a Coast Guard and BP estimate of how much is coming
out, though some scientists say they believe the spill has already
surpassed the 11 million-gallon 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off
Alaska as the worst in U.S. history. A federal task force of
scientists is now working to try to get a better idea how much oil
is gushing from the well, and it could release data this week. The
spill's impact on shore now stretches across 150 miles, from
Dauphin Island, Ala., to Grand Isle, La.
BP said Monday its costs for the spill had grown to about $760
million, including containment efforts, drilling a relief well to
stop the leak permanently, grants to Gulf states for their response
costs, and payment of damage claims. BP said it's too early to
calculate other potential costs and liabilities.
BP's chief executive said Monday that he had underestimated the
possible environmental impact of the massive spill. Tony Hayward
walked along oil-soaked Fourchon Beach and talked with cleanup
workers in white overalls and yellow boots, some shoveling oily
sand into garbage cans. He said he was devastated by what he saw.
Oil is stretching further into the Louisiana wetlands. It has
also hit several rookeries where pelicans nest, oiling birds and
nests. Oil has also reached a 1,150-acre oyster ground leased by
Belle Chasse, La., fisherman Dave Cvitanovich. He said cleanup
crews were stringing lines of absorbent boom along the surrounding
marshes, but that still left large clumps of rust-colored oil
floating over his oyster beds. Mature oysters might eventually
filter out the crude and become fit for sale, but this year's crop
of young oysters will perish. Officials said last week that 264
birds, sea turtles and dolphins had been found dead or stranded on
shore and may have been affected by the spill, though Roger Helm,
chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's contaminants
division, said the death toll is certain to rise as the oil moves
deeper into the marshes. In contrast, hundreds of thousands of
birds, otters and other animals were killed after the Exxon Valdez
spill in 1989.
The federal official overseeing the response to the devastating
oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico said Monday there'd be nothing to
gain by pushing BP aside and putting the government in charge.
Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen told reporters at a White House
briefing asked what would replace BP. Amid mounting frustration
over BP PLC'S inability stop the leak that's befouled the Gulf for
a month now - and questions about why the government can't make the
company do more - Allen insisted BP was "exhausting every
technical means possible to deal with that leak."
OIL SPILL TAX
Responding to the massive BP oil spill, Congress is getting
ready to quadruple - to 32 cents a barrel - a tax on oil used to
help finance cleanups. The increase would raise nearly $11 billion
over the next decade. The tax is levied on oil produced in the U.S.
or imported from foreign countries. The revenue goes to a fund
managed by the Coast Guard to help pay to clean up spills in
waterways, such as the Gulf of Mexico.
OIL SPILL FIXES
BP PLC officials say that if their high-stakes attempt to plug
the leaking Gulf of Mexico well by injecting heavy drilling mud
into it fails they will likely try to cap it with a small
containment dome. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said
Monday engineers were working furiously to prepare to launch the
massive "top kill" maneuver Wednesday. But Suttles says it's not
a guaranteed success and crews are already working on a backup plan
to fit a small dome atop the leaking well and then pump the oil to
OIL SPILL COUNSELING
While no one wants it to happen, the modest mental health
operation run here by AltaPointe Health Systems could soon face
having to be the Little Clinic That Could. The story hasn't
unfolded in coastal Alabama, but communities studied in Prince
William Sound 20 years ago showed increases in family violence,
symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and serious
strains on mental health agencies. The research, on areas affected
by the Exxon-Valdez spill, was funded by the National Science
Foundation. The AltaPointe executive director says the governor has
asked them to estimate what the demand there could be.
OIL SPILL HAIR
Like countless beauticians across the country, Ana La Bella has
had the hair swept from the floor of her salon, wrapped in plastic
bags and shipped off to help contain the oil spill in the Gulf of
Mexico. But the boxes she sent are piling up with hundreds of
thousands of pounds of hair, pet fur and fleece in 19 warehouses
spread throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. BP
and the U.S. Coast Guard say they are not using hair to sop up the
oil, and don't plan to. Engineers said they concluded that using
the hair was not feasible, and the organizations collecting the
hair were asked to stop doing so.