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|Subject: Oil Spill in the Mexican Gulf: greatest environmental disaster Wed Jun 16, 2010 4:00 pm|| |
The Huffington PostThe greatest environmental disaster of all times is unfolding in the Mexican Gulf. But what can the USA do about it? Not much.
CNNObama, BP set for Gulf oil showdown
June 16, 2010 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
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Obama: 'We'll make BP pay'
* NEW: Crews in oil cleanup trample nests and eggs of birds, Louisiana parish leader says
* President Obama expected to tell BP to foot bill for Gulf clean-up, recovery efforts
* In Oval Office address, Obama blasts BP for "recklessness"
* Officials now estimate 30,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil leaking in Gulf per day
Washington (CNN) -- President Obama will have his showdown with BP top executives Wednesday and said he will tell the company it must pick up the tab for the massive oil disaster in the Gulf.
Obama vowed Tuesday to unleash whatever resources may be needed to fight the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and to keep the pressure on BP.
"We will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long it takes," Obama said after two consecutive days surveying the Gulf Coast, which is threatened by a massive oil spill that began April 20.
In a prime-time speech from the Oval Office, the president predicted that "in the coming days and weeks," efforts to contain the leak "should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well."
Ending the leak should occur later in the summer when a relief well being drilled by BP is slated for completion, he said.
Referring to his planned meeting Wednesday at the White House with BP's top execs, Obama said he would tell Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg "that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness."
The fund will be controlled not by BP, but by an independent, third party, he said.
In a statement, BP said, "We share the president's goal of shutting off the well as quickly as possible, cleaning up the oil and mitigating the impact on the people and environment of the Gulf Coast. We look forward to meeting with President Obama tomorrow [Wednesday] for a constructive discussion about how best to achieve these mutual goals."
iReport: Share your views, solutions on Gulf oil spill
Speedy claims processing is expected to be high on the meeting's agenda.
David Axelrod, Obama's senior adviser, has said a new claims plan would call for an independent third party to handle the process, and a White House spokesman said the administration is confident it has the legal authority to force BP to set up an escrow account for the purpose of paying damages.
BP announced Tuesday that it accelerated commercial large-loss claims and has approved 337 checks for $16 million to businesses that have filed claims in excess of $5,000. Initial payments began over the weekend and will be completed this week, the British energy giant said.
During his Oval Office speech, Obama made no reference to the announcement earlier Tuesday by government scientists that they had increased their estimate of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico by 50 percent -- to between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per day, which translates into 1.5 million gallons to 2.5 million gallons per day.
The government's previous estimate, issued last week, was 20,000 to 40,000 barrels per day.
The change was "based on updated information and scientific assessments," and was reached by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Marcia McNutt, the head of the U.S. Geological Survey, who leads the government's Flow Rate Technical Group.
"The improved estimate is based on more and better data that is now available and that helps increase the scientific confidence in the accuracy of the estimate," the officials said in a statement.
"Our response to the spill is not determined by flow rate estimates," said BP spokesman Toby Odone. "Our primary concern is to capture as much oil as possible. We are building options to contain higher volumes of oil."
He called measurement of the flow rate "extremely challenging," given that the leak is a mile below the surface of the water.
BP spokesman John Curry said the analysis included data provided by the oil company.
"We want what everyone wants," he said. "We want to do whatever we can to capture all the oil we can to minimize the impact."
The heightened estimate of the scope of the continuing disaster came as Obama appointed Michael Bromwich, a former Justice Department watchdog in the Clinton administration, as the new head of a reorganized federal effort to regulate offshore oil drilling.
"His charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry's watchdog -- not its partner," Obama said Tuesday.
A White House statement said Bromwich would "lead the effort to reform the Minerals Management Service," an Interior Department agency accused of corrupt practices and poor oversight of offshore drilling in the run-up to the Gulf oil disaster.
Also Tuesday, lawmakers hammered oil companies as Obama toured the Florida coast and sought to reassure Americans that the government had firm command over the oil disaster.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration said that seafood from the Gulf remains safe for consumers, but health threats from the disaster could last for years, a health expert told a Senate committee. The health expert also said officials lack knowledge on how long chemicals in the spilled oil and dispersants will remain toxic.
Crews cleaning up the oil in one Louisiana parish have trampled the nests and eggs of birds, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said Wednesday. Among them was the brown pelican, which came off the endangered species list last year.
Nungesser said the parish doesn't want to turn away contractors, but he called for more care when crews work in the sensitive wetlands.
He said officials recently found broken eggs and crushed chicks on Queen Bess Island, near Grand Isle.
The spill dwarfs the 11 million gallons that were dumped into Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989 when the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground, and oil in varying amounts and consistencies has hit the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
BP has been siphoning oil from a containment cap placed atop the ruptured well.
Major criticism also came from lawmakers in Washington, where senior Democrats launched a blistering attack on oil companies at a key House subcommittee hearing.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, said that four of the five largest oil firms have produced disaster response plans that discuss how to protect walruses, even though there are no walruses in the Gulf.
These are "cookie-cutter plans" that, in reality, are little more than "just paper exercises," he said.
Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, blasted the heads of Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP and Shell Oil for producing disaster response plans that are "virtually identical."
They all tout "ineffective identical equipment" and often use "the exact same words" in their plans, he said. They have spent "zero time and money" in developing adequate response blueprints, he asserted.
Hope for bipartisan cooperation in terms of crafting a plan to prevent spills, however, appeared to fade as the GOP blasted Democrats for allegedly using the spill as an excuse to pass what Republicans contend would be a jobs-destroying, alternative-energy bill.
Republicans also continued to slam the Obama administration for imposing a six-month deepwater drilling moratorium and stepped up their fight against a Democratic move to lift liability caps for oil spills.
Also Tuesday, federal authorities announced guidelines to speed up maritime waivers that would allow more foreign ships -- in addition to the 15 already in the Gulf of Mexico -- to assist in oil cleanup efforts.
"Should any waivers be needed, we are prepared to process them as quickly as possible to allow vital spill response activities being undertaken by foreign-flagged vessels to continue without delay," said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the government's response manager.
The Jones Act, which regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters, requires that goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S.-flagged ships that have been constructed in the United States and are American-owned.
The law was intended to support the U.S. merchant marine industry but now limits foreign vessels from participating in the oil response.
Allen also announced Tuesday the establishment of three positions for deputy incident commanders, who will help oversee operations from the coast. The three will join a response team that already involves roughly 27,000 people.
CNN's Dana Bash, Anderson Cooper and Ed Henry contributed to this report.
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Well, if nothing else, the terrorists now know how to cause maximum damage and chaos. Just load a boat full of explosives and ram an oil rig.
It just wasn't that impressive of a speech without the gold Muslim curtain on the wall behind Barry.
Now I'm no oil rig engineer, but as a layman this is what I see. BP is wanting to siphon the oil from the cap and then build relief wells to fix this problem. To me it seems this situation could have been handled a long time ago if BP wasn't concerned about getting its oil from that reservoir.
To me greed is what caused this disaster and greed is what is continuing this disaster. Because surely there is a way to seal this well but those ideas were ignored because the oil is to valuable to seal it off.
It still amazes me everyday how this idiot got elected into office....thank you ghettos for making my life miserable..
1 minute ago | Like | Report abuse
I never saw Obama's administration as culpable in this matter until last night. In my eyes Obama blew a big opportunity to seek the change that he said he was actually going to make during his campaign. He could've pushed more aggressively for cleaner energy and laid out a specific plan last night to move our infrastructure to solar, wind, nuclear, and biofuels while capping carbon emissions by slashing the amount of oil we use through removing oil company subsidies, incentivizing natural gas, electric, and biofuel transportation, and upgrading existing cars and trucks with cleaner technology, but he didn't. He stuck mostly to political platitudes and looking backwards, blame-finding and damage control, instead of looking forward as well.
And before the conservatives start groaning about "never letting a good crisis go to waste," turn that thought around on your boys Reagan and Bush and you'll see that every president does it. As for Obama, this is the first time I'm really disappointed in how mired in the details he's become instead of impelling our backwoods, childish country - hissyfits and all - into the 21st century.