Posted: Jun 21, 2010 8:29 AM by Sharlee Barriere
A summary of events on Monday, June 21, Day 62 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.
BP has spent $2 billion in two months of fighting its Gulf of
Mexico oil spill and compensating victims, with no end in sight to
the disaster or the price tag. The British oil giant released its
latest tally of response costs Monday, including $105 million paid
out so far to 32,000 claimants. The figure does not include a $20
billion fund that BP PLC last week agreed to set up to continue
compensating Gulf residents and businesses. There are also scores
of lawsuits piling up against BP for the April 20 rig explosion
that killed 11 workers and ensuing oil spill that has yet to be
capped. Shares of BP, which have lost about half their value since
the rig Deepwater Horizon burned and sank off the Louisiana coast,
were down nearly 5 percent Monday in London trading at $5.06.
The man President Barack Obama picked to run the $20 billion
damage fund said many people are in "desperate financial straits"
and need immediate relief. "Do not underestimate the emotionalism
and the frustration and the anger of people in the Gulf uncertain
of their financial future," Kenneth Feinberg told interviewers
Monday. "It's very pronounced. I witnessed it firsthand last
week." Feinberg, who ran the victims claim fund set up in the wake
of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said he is determined to
speed up payment of claims.
BP also argued that its partners in the oil well project must
share responsibility for the disaster costs. BP owned 65 percent of
the well, while Anadarko Petroleum Corp. had 25 percent stake and a
subsidiary of Mitsui & Co. Ltd. of Japan had a 10 percent stake.
Anadarko said Friday the joint operating agreement made BP
responsible for any damage due to gross negligence or willful
misconduct. BP shot back Monday that all the partners shared in
liability for oil spill damages.
The best hope of ending the disaster rests on teams drilling two
relief wells meant to stop the seafloor oil gusher, a daunting
task: Their drills have to hit a target roughly the size of a salad
plate about three miles below the water's surface. If the workers
aboard Transocean's Development Driller II or its sister rig DDIII
miss or move too slowly, oil will keep pouring into the sea. As
much as 125 million gallons of oil has gushed into the Gulf. No one
on the rig has done this before because these deep sea
interventions are so rare. But rig workers brushed off worries and
the pressure to succeed. "It's really not a tough thing to do,"
says Mickey Fruge, the wellsite leader aboard the DDII for BP,
which was leasing the rig that blew up and is responsible for
stopping the oil.
Overwhelmed and saddened by the gargantuan size of the Gulf oil
spill? A little mathematical context to the spill size can put the
environmental catastrophe in perspective. Viewing it through some
lenses, it isn't that huge. The Mississippi River pours as much
water into the Gulf of Mexico in 38 seconds as the BP oil leak has
done in two months. On a more human scale, the spill seems more
daunting. Take the average-sized living room. The amount of oil
spilled would fill 9,200 of them.
Several oil service companies are asking a federal judge to
block the Interior Department from enforcing a six-month moratorium
on new deepwater drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico. U.S.
District Judge Martin Feldman is scheduled to hear arguments Monday
in New Orleans on Hornbeck Offshore Services' bid for lifting the
moratorium. A lawsuit filed by the company claims the government
arbitrarily imposed the moratorium and suspended drilling at 33
existing exploratory wells without any proof that the operations
posed a threat.
Health officials say there seems to be little reason to worry
about the spill's health effects at this point. But some note that
health effects months or years from now remain a question mark,
particularly for the workers who are in the thick of it, cleaning
up oil from the BP spill in the Gulf. Public health officials and
scientists will take up the topic at a two-day meeting beginning
Tuesday in New Orleans, organized by the Institute of Medicine at
the request of the Department of Health and Human Services. The
group will also talk about how best to watch for any potential
problems. HHS has already set aside $10 million to study cleanup
workers and Gulf residents over time.