Gulf Coast Oil Spill Disaster Summary

From the good folks at NRDC.

This morning’s summary
The Gulf oil disaster has focused some pretty tough questions on oil politics in the United States. On Wednesday, the co-chairmen of the national commission investigating the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico were surprised and dismayed to learn that President Barack Obama didn’t consult with top federal environmental officials before announcing plans to expand offshore oil drilling in March. Obama’s decision now seems like a pretty frivolous one especially in light of the catastrophe that has unraveled in the Gulf and has not yet been stopped. Now we’re learning that the first hours after the oil rig explosion were wasted because engineers couldn’t find essential blowout preventer documents to help plug the leak. A Transocean worker tells the oil spill commission that the blowout preventer was not rectified in 2005 as required by regulations. Claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg is coming under attack for being partial to BP. But in one piece of good news, the PEW Trust gives high grades to the media for its coverage of the worst environmental disaster in US history. The public knows what’s going on, and that’s one good sign.

Quotable Quote:

“We cannot attach a timeline yet, because we do not know the condition of the pipe,” Incident Commander Adm. Thad Allen as the work continues to remove the blowout preventer.

National News

CBS News: BP VP: 12-24 hours wasted after oil rig exploded

A BP vice president told a panel of federal investigators Wednesday that critical time was lost after the Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion because documents that could have led to a faster response weren’t available. The documents were about changes made to the blowout preventer. Ultimately it didn’t matter because the blowout preventer didn’t work.

Read more

AP: Key device in Gulf oil spill didn’t get rectified

A critical device at the center of an investigation into the Gulf oil rig explosion didn’t undergo a rigorous recertification process in 2005 as required by federal regulators. Mark Hay, an equipment maintenance worker for rig-owner Transocean, said the blowout preventer — designed to prevent a spill in the case of an explosion — was not recertified because it was being constantly maintained. Recertifying the five-story device requires completely disassembling it out of the water and can take as long as three months to complete.

Read more from Ramit Plushnick-Masti

Reuters: U.S., Cuba, Mexico urged to cooperate on Gulf drilling

Cuba’s oil industry wants to work with its counterparts in the United States and Mexico to promote safe drilling practices and avoid the kind of well blowout and spill seen recently in the Gulf of Mexico, a leading drilling industry expert said on Wednesday.

Read more from Marc Frank


Wall Street Journal: Former MMS chief stands by drilling policies

The former head of the disbanded U.S. Minerals Management Service, who left her job in May, stood by the Obama administration Wednesday and declined to challenge its offshore-drilling policies. Liz Birnbaum, the former director of the MMS, said she had provided Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “with every piece of information I could” and “In the end, I supported the administration’s decision.”

Read more from Siobhan Hughes

Los Angeles Times: BP not learning from disasters, investigator charges

Key decisions made aboard the oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico were made by at least three people — a confusing tangle of responsibility that made it virtually impossible for decisive leadership, a lead investigator said Wednesday.
The investigator, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Hung Nguyen, also said a top BP executive could not articulate any lessons learned from previous deadly oil refinery and drilling disasters over the last two decades.

Read more

Washington Post: Spill panel probes Obama’s decision to drill more

The chairmen of the presidential panel investigating the Gulf oil spill are expressing disappointment that the Obama administration didn’t consult with senior U.S. environmental officials before announcing plans to expand offshore drilling before the accident.

Read more from Dina Cappiello


AP: Gulf waste heads to landfills, come with problems

The ongoing controversy about dumping the cleanup waste in Gulf coast landfills is not just a NIMBY-not-in-my-backyard issue. Three of the nine landfills in question are either under investigation or have already been cited for pollution, and local activists do not want to increase the risk.

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Bloomberg: Louisiana treasurer says “chuckleheads” caused Gulf oil spill

Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy said “chuckleheads” on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig caused the explosion and oil spill, and said the isolated incident shouldn’t delay resuming Gulf of Mexico exploration.

Read more from Jim Snyder and Margaret Brennan

Los Angeles Times: Take money now or chances later?

It’s only three days old. But already many in the Gulf coast say, despite all the encouraging talk, Claims Administrator Ken Feinberg’s system benefits BP and offers only very difficult choices to people who may have claims. “Government officials along the Gulf Coast, lawyers and potential litigants complain that the Feinberg’s protocol offers substantially less protection than would be afforded in court under the 1990 Oil Pollution Act, which requires the payment of “interim” damages with no forfeiture of the right to sue .In addition, Feinberg’s policies do not offer protection for future damages that could take years to emerge,” critics said.

Read more from Kim Murphy,0,5479835.story


AFP: BP scraps plans to drill in Arctic due to Gulf spill

BP has scrapped plans to drill in the Arctic, where a new oil rush is expected, amid fears such a move would be “political madness” after the Gulf oil spill.

Read more

RadarOnline: Musicians come together to help victims of Gulf oil spill

Artists including members of the former band Jefferson Airplane, Berlin, Alabama, The Righteous Brothers, The Smashing Pumpkins and No Doubt have joined forces to record a song benefiting Louisiana’s musical legacy, as well as the area’s local fishermen. Former lead singer of Jefferson Airplane,Grace Slick, came out of retirement to write the lyrics for the song, Edge of Madness. The track will be officially released through an independent label and is currently available for download purchase at the Grammy Museum’s website,

Read more

B&C: Media rise to oil spill coverage

If the Gulf oil spill coverage was a test of network news operations “battered” by staffing cutbacks, many of those outlets appeared to pass the test with coverage that humanized the story and refrained from turning it into “another polarizing and political saga,” despite some temptation to do so. That was the conclusion of a study of coverage by national news outlets by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ).

Read more from John Eggerton


Chron: Waiver idea of “spill czar” echoes earlier BP idea

Remember those waivers that BP asked fishermen to sign when they hired them for cleanup? Well this writer says the new claims payments from Claims Administrator Ken Feinberg sound very similar—demanding waivers from claimants for final payments from the trust fund. “Feinberg seems to be doing BP’s legal bidding. As I’ve pointed out before, the spill fund has definite benefits for BP, and shielding it from legal liability is certainly among them. “

Read more from Loren Steffy


Wall Street Journal: On doomed rig’s last day, a divisive change of plan

This is an account of a Wall Street Journal investigation into the last hours of the Deepwater Horizon. The story recounts in detail the fateful decisions of the day to change the regular procedure for testing the well. “Normally, workers on the rig remove about 300 feet of mud below the blowout preventer and replace it with seawater. Mud holds down any gas that leaks into the well. So companies usually test a well fully to make sure it is sealed against any influx of gas before removing too much of the mud. But BP engineers in Houston decided to set the cement plug much deeper than usual and remove 10 times as much mud as is normal before running the test. It was unusual, but BP says it changed the procedure in order to avoid damage to a key seal.”

Read more from Russell Gold and Ben Casselman


Video: Gulf coast clergy meet to discuss residents’ spiritual needs



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