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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    WIRE: Obama to visit Gulf as pressure mounts for BP to step up response

    PENSACOLA, Fla. — As the White House pressured oil giant BP to step up its response to the Deepwater Horizon spill, including faster payment of damage claims and more aggressive plans to contain the crude gushing undersea, the federal government’s point man on the crisis said he still doesn’t know how much oil is spewing from the broken well.

    Meanwhile, Obama administration officials speaking on Sunday morning political shows delivered some tough talk to BP in advance of the president’s scheduled address to the nation on Tuesday following a two-day tour of the Gulf Coast region.

    President Barack Obama also is scheduled to meet with BP executives at the White House Wednesday, when the administration is expected to press the oil giant to set aside billions of dollars to pay individuals and businesses damaged by the massive spill — and that those monies be paid out in a transparent manner by an independent third party.

    “”We’ve been very concerned about the claims process,”” U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, the government’s point man on the response, said CBS’s Face The Nation. “”It’s not clear to us that there’s transparency.””

    Another murky issue is the amount of oil gushing daily from the deep-sea well, which is about one mile below the surface of the Gulf.

    Scientists still are uncertain about the amount of oil 55 days after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana on April 20, killing 11 people and triggering the worst spill in the nation’s history.

    Allen said the government would deploy two robots to the bottom of the Gulf on Sunday to seek more data on the spill.

    The government also will try to reach an accurate measure of the oilspill by “”taking overhead satellite imagery of oil on water to using very high resolution video to assessing velocity of flow,”” he said.

    Earlier estimates of the spill, which ranged from 5,000 to 19,000 barrels daily, “”were never BP’s figures,”” Allen said. “”They were our figures,”” provided by a technical group led by the U.S. Geological Survey.

    The team’s latest estimates of the spill have ranged from 20,000 to 40,000 barrels daily.

    BP reported Sunday a containment dome lowered over the broken well’s blowout preventer had collected about 7,400 barrels of oil in the 12 hours before midnight. Total oil collected since the cap was deployed on June 4 is about 120,000 barrels.

    Allen said the true measure of oil spilled will not be known until August, when BP expects to cap the well. He expects clean-up of oil on the surface and possibly the Gulf

    Coast shores to continue well into the fall.

    Over the weekend, oil was reported coming ashore at Horn Island off the Mississippi coast and along the Alabama shoreline, near Orange Beach, among other locations.

    Using the government’s newest, albeit still to be revised, estimates, nearly 90 million gallons have spilled into the Gulf since the BP rig exploded and sank.

    The government has repeatedly said BP is liable for the cleanup costs, and Allen said there was little concern at the moment about BP’s being driven to bankruptcy by demands from the federal government, Gulf Coast states and individuals.

    “”They’re a company that has a lot of wealth inside it,”” Allen said. “”I don’t think that’s a consideration.””

    BP is expected to respond by Sunday night to a June 11 letter from U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. James Watson demanding a more aggressive effort to contain the oil spill. BP’s board of directors also is scheduled to meet Monday and is expected to discuss deferring second-quarter dividend payments to share holders and setting aside money to pay for oil spill claims.

    Among the claims so far are two by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy, who have asked BP to set aside $7.5 billion in escrow accounts to pay claims from the states and their residents for present and future damages.

    In advance of Obama’s visit to the region on Monday, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said he welcomed the attention because it leads to quicker action and more assets to fight the spill.

    “”That kind of focus only helps all of us,”” he said, speaking from a Florida beach.

    Crist emphasized that no state beaches have closed due to the spill, and said he has requested more skimming boats from the Coast Guard.

    He estimated oil from the spill was three to four miles off the coast of Pensacola Beach.

    Still, on Sunday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission closed about 23 miles of coastline in the panhandle’s Escambia County to fishing, crabbing and shrimping _ because oil was present several miles off shore.

    Also, a plume of weathered oil about two miles wide and 40 miles long was detected nine miles south of Pensacola Pass, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

    A second plume of non-weathered oil, verified through state reconnaissance data, was identified three miles south of Pensacola Pass, the entryway to the Inter-Coastal Waterway.

    A sheen of oil, described as a long ribbon, came in to Pensacola Pass early Sunday morning and skimmers were quickly deployed, said Brandi Thompson, an Escambia County spokeswoman.

    Also, two barges collecting oil Saturday night in Perdido Pass collided, resulting in a small fire but no injuries.




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