Jul 20, 2010 9:20 AM by Sharlee Barriere
A summary of events Tuesday, July 20, Day 91 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 poured into the Gulf
from a blown-out undersea well until BP managed to stanch the leak
Thursday - at least temporarily - with a massive cap.
Oil from BP's blown out well is again seeping into the Gulf of
Mexico, but this time more slowly, and scientists aren't convinced
the cap that stopped the flow last week is making things worse. The
government said Monday that oil was seeping into the Gulf after
days of warning that the experimental cap on the oil well could
cause more leaks. Despite what at first seemed a setback, though,
the federal government declared the development insignificant and
forged ahead with BP's plan for finally sealing the hole in the
ocean floor. At a Monday afternoon briefing in Washington, the
retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said BP could keep the cap
closed at least another 24 hours, as long as the company remained
alert for leaks.
WHERE IS IT?
Ever since the cap was used to bottle up the oil last week,
engineers have been watching underwater cameras and monitoring
pressure and seismic readings to see whether the well would hold or
spring a new leak, perhaps one that could rupture the sea floor and
make the disaster even worse. Small amounts of oil and gas started
coming from the cap late Sunday, but "we do not believe it is
consequential at this time," retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen
said. Also, seepage from the sea floor was detected over the
weekend less than two miles away. But Allen said it probably has
nothing to do with the well. Oil and gas are known to ooze
naturally from fissures in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
LESS OIL ON SHORE
Since the cap was closed Thursday, beachgoers have reported less
oil fouling the shore. Bob Broadway, 41, of Huntsville, Ala., said
his vacation spot in Orange Beach, Ala., has improved from a month
ago. Then, he said, the oil was thick "like chocolate" and the
beach smelled like "an old mechanic's garage." "The beach looks
better now than before," he said Monday.
Work on a permanent plug is moving steadily, with crews drilling
into the side of the ruptured well from deep underground. By next
week, they could start blasting in mud and cement to block off the
well for good. Killing the well deep underground works more
reliably than bottling it up with a cap.
The federal judge who overturned the Obama administration's
initial six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling has refused
to disqualify himself from the case. Several environmental groups
had asked U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman to withdraw because of
his investments in several oil and gas companies. Feldman refused
in an order issued Friday and posted Monday. Earlier this month, a
federal appeals court rejected the government's bid to restore its
temporary ban on issuing new permits for deepwater drilling and
suspension of 33 existing drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Justice Department later issued a new moratorium that it hopes
will pass muster with the courts.
For decades, billions poured into Gulf Coast states that allowed
oil drilling off their shores. Economies grew, jobs were created
and millionaires were born all along the waterfront. Everywhere,
that is, except Florida. People of all political stripes largely
banded together in the Sunshine State, united in opposition to
offshore drilling and confident the peninsula's $61 billion
tourist-driven economy hinged on a pristine environment. Fearing
the doomsday an accident could bring - or simply the sight of rigs
from beaches - Florida rejected drilling. But doomsday came anyway.
As Floridians see their white sand beaches getting fouled by the
spill, many are angry at their Gulf Coast neighbors.
Musician Shamarr Allen was flying back into Louis Armstrong
International Airport when he got his first real glimpse of the BP
oil spill. The words of CEO Tony Hayward's TV spot - "To those
affected and your families, I'm deeply sorry" - were ringing in
his ears. Allen was exhausted after playing a private party, but he
couldn't sleep until he and some friends had laid down their
response. Like the oil from the Deepwater Horizon drill rig,
"Sorry Ain't Enough No More" came gushing out. He's among many
artists who have expressed their anger - in music, poetry, paint,
glass and pretty much every other medium. Often proceeds from the
art go to a nonprofit group fighting the spill or its results.