Thursday, June 03, 2010

Day 45: BP Oil Spill Crisis; Sen. Nelson Calls For Military Option

Jun 3: With oil drifting closer and closer to the world-famous beaches of the Florida Panhandle, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) has been insisting that the White House should call in the military "to help keep the slime at bay." According to a release from Senator Nelson, "No one expects the military to be able to cap the gushing well. As the chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen says, the military isn't suited or equipped to do so. But Nelson believes the military can bring what former Secretary of State Colin Powell said in a recent interview: "The military brings organization. It brings control. It brings assets." 

    Nelson said as he departed Orlando for a trip to the Pensacola area for a first-hand look at preparations to combat the spill, "This is the largest environmental disaster in our nation's history. If this doesn't call for more organization, control and assets -- like, subsea mapping by the Navy, for instance -- then nothing does." Nelson's stop at area emergency operations centers comes as the Panhandle confronts the stark reality of oil washing ashore in Florida. Government forecasters are closely tracking a significant plume of oil 35 miles off Pensacola Beach. None of that oil was expected to make landfall before Saturday. But officials warn tar balls could start hitting area beaches by tomorrow. 

    In a June 1, letter to the President, Senator Nelson said, "Last week I respectfully suggested that you consider calling on the Pentagon -- if the attempted 'top kill' of the well didn't work. Despite initial reports to the contrary, that attempt failed. And it now appears likely that oil will continue gushing at least until August when two relief wells can be finished. . . it is my belief that the broader assets and command and control capability of the Department of Defense could better translate your directives into prompt, effective action."

    Nelson's release indicates that he is a long-time opponent of offshore drilling off Florida's Gulf coast. Nelson was instrumental in getting the first live images of the well disaster made public, leading to a re-evaluation of the amount of oil actually gushing from the well. He's also filed legislation to raise the liability cap for economic and environmental damages for the spill from $75 million to whatever it costs to "fix the mess and compensate folks for their losses." He's filed another bill to toughen regulation of the oil industry and end lax oversight by the Federal government. 
    Today, the 45th day of the Gulf oil spill tragedy, BP reported success in shearing through and separating the damaged riser from the lower marine riser package (LMRP) at the top of the Deepwater Horizon's failed blow-out preventer (BOP). The operations was halted yesterday when a saw became stuck in its attempt to cut the pipe. BP is now attempting to connect 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.
    BP also announced yesterday that it supports the U.S. government's decision to proceed with the construction of six sections of the Louisiana barrier islands proposal. The company will fund the estimated $360 million it will cost to construct the six sections. BP said it will not manage or contract directly for the construction of the island sections, "nor will the company assume any liability for unintended consequences of the project." The company said it plans to make payments in stages based on the project's milestones.
    Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive officer said, "BP is committed to implementing the most effective measures to protect the coastline of Louisiana and reduce the impact of the oil and gas spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The federal government and the state of Louisiana have agreed that the barrier islands construction is an effective response to the spill, and we look forward to working with them on this project. BP said it already has provided $170 million to Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida to help with their response costs and help promote their tourism industries. The company also has paid approximately $42 million in compensation to people and companies affected by the spill.
    The Obama Administration sent a preliminary bill for $69.09 million to BP and other responsible parties for response and recovery operations relating to the BP/Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The Administration said it will continue to bill BP regularly for all associated costs to ensure the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund is reimbursed on an ongoing basis. According to a release, to provide full transparency of the ongoing efforts and to ensure that the American public is not held accountable for the costs of response and recovery activities, the Federal Government will bill BP and the other responsible parties periodically for costs incurred by the Federal On-Scene Coordinator to support Federal, State, and local response efforts. The Administration said it expects prompt payment and will take additional steps as necessary to ensure that BP and other responsible parties, not American taxpayers, pay all of the costs associated with the BP/Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
    In other activities, the Coast Guard pollution investigators from Sector Key West are currently responding to reports of an oily substance and tar balls near Duck Key, FL, Long Key, FL, and Grassy Key, FL. The response will require sampling and testing to determine if any pollution is related to the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill. The Coast Guard said it received multiple notifications from the National Response Center Tuesday of an oily substance and tar balls approximately four nautical miles south of Long Key, FL. 
    Access a release from Senator Nelson (click here). Access Nelson's letter to the President (click here). Access the BP response website for links to visuals on how the LMRP is supposed to work (click here). Access a release on the BP billing (click here). Access a release on the Coast Guard response in the Keys (click here). Access additional information updates 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 White House website on the BP spill which contains links to all Federal agency response websites and more (click here).


Day 45: BP Oil Spill Crisis; Sen. Nelson Calls For Military Option
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