Wednesday, June 02, 2010

BP Gulf Oil Spill Disaster; Latest Company & Administration Response

Jun 2: As conditions in the Gulf worsen and tension increases between local governments, residents, businesses and the Federal government and BP, news of attempts to curtail the flow of oil were not good as the LMRP Cap operation was halted, at least temporarily, due to problems. The Administration issued a release underscoring its scientific response to the BP oil spill. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco highlighted the critical role science has played in the U.S. government's response to the Deepwater BP oil spill. A release indicates that from the beginning, the Administration's response to this "unprecedented event" has been based on the best science available in both the public and private sectors, as responders have worked to measure and mitigate the impacts of the oil, monitor air and water conditions and assess any and all impacts to the environment as well as human health.

    She said, "From day one, the Obama administration has ensured sound science was driving this response. While we have marshaled all the resources available to fight this unprecedented spill, we have also engaged the full expertise and assets of the best scientific and engineering minds throughout the country -- from the federal government, the private sector, academia, and non-governmental organizations -- to study impacts and assess response efforts." At President Obama's instruction -- and under the coordination of National Incident Commander for the Deepwater BP oil spill, Admiral Thad Allen -- NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Department of Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu and U.S. Geological Survey Director Dr. Marcia McNutt have brought their expertise and experience to bear throughout this effort.

    Secretary Chu has assembled a team of top scientists from academia and the U.S. government, with support from more than 200 personnel from America's national laboratories, to analyze the response efforts and recommend additional options for stopping the leaking oil -- including recommendations that BP use high energy gamma rays to image parts of the internal state of the Blow-Out Preventer (BOP). Additionally, lab personnel have independently analyzed the two-dimensional gamma ray images which are crucial in helping understand what is happening inside the BOP and informing the approach moving forward.

    Recognizing the environmental, legal, and financial importance of providing the public with access to accurate measures of the flow of oil leaking from the BP Deepwater Horizon well, Director McNutt continues to lead the government's independent review panel -- the Flow Rate Technical Group. The team is leading the coordinated effort across the Federal government and academia to determine oil flow rates from the spill by collecting and analyzing data, and running state-of-the-art models, as well as conducting an independent peer review of all reports and findings of the modeling team under a contract with an independent organization. 

    Administrator Lubchenco also highlighted NOAA's ongoing scientific response to the Deepwater BP oil spill -- including the Gordon Gunter's ongoing acoustic survey of the submerged oil fields, or "plumes," and the Thomas Jefferson, which is returning to sea today -- including the collection of water samples and the net sampling of pelagic species throughout the water column.

    Also, U.S. EPA has used its science expertise to ensure protection of public heath and the environment. EPA is aggressively sampling and monitoring the air, water, sediment and underwater use of dispersant every day, and each day EPA posts this monitoring data and its scientific analysis on a special website to ensure the public has access to it. EPA and DHS have also demanded BP post the data it has collected publicly.

    On June 2, BP posted extensive visuals on it efforts to implement the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP). Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) were engaged in operations attempting to cut through and separate the damaged riser from the LMRP at the top of the Deepwater Horizon's failed blow-out preventer (BOP). Unfortunately, media reports indicate that the operations have been stalled because the saw has apparently become stuck. If operations can resume, deployment of the system will involve connecting the containment cap to a riser from the Discoverer Enterprise drillship and then placing it over the LMRP, with the intention of capturing most of the oil and gas flowing from the well and transporting it to the drillship on the surface. The operation was originally expected to take 4-7 days.
    On June 1, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke in New Orleans on the Gulf Oil Spill following a tour of the area and said in part, "As we move forward, we will be guided by simple principles: We will ensure that every cent of taxpayer money will be repaid and damages to the environment and wildlife will be reimbursed. We will make certain that those responsible clean up the mess they have made and restore or replace the natural resources lost or injured in this tragedy. And we will prosecute to the full extent any violations of the law. . ."
    He listed the various statutes involved which they are reviewing as: The Clean Water Act, which carries civil penalties and fines as well as criminal penalties; The Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which can be used to hold parties liable for cleanup costs and reimbursement for government efforts; The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Endangered Species Acts, which provide penalties for injury and death to wildlife and bird species; and, Other traditional criminal statutes.
   He said, "There are a wide range of possible violations under these statutes, and we will closely examine the actions of those involved in this spill. If we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be forceful in our response. We have already instructed all relevant parties to preserve any documents that may shed light on the facts surrounding this disaster. As our review expands in the days ahead, we will be meticulous, we will be comprehensive, and we will be aggressive. We will not rest until justice is done."
    Access the BP response website for links to visuals on how the LMRP is supposed to work (click here). Access more information and links to releases and briefings on the Administrations response from the Unified Command website (click here). Access EPA's environmental monitoring site (click here). Access the complete statement from Eric Holder (click here). Access the White House website on the BP spill which contains links to all Federal agency response websites and more (click here).


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