Some oil spill events from Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Some oil spill events from Monday, May 24, 2010

A summary of events on Monday, May 24, Day 33 of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began with the April 20 explosion and fire on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased by BP PLC, which is in charge of cleanup and containment. The blast killed 11 workers. Since then, oil has been pouring into the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well at a rate of at least 210,000 gallons per day.


At least 6 million gallons of crude have spewed into the Gulf, according to a Coast Guard and BP estimate of how much is coming out, though some scientists say they believe the spill has already surpassed the 11 million-gallon 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska as the worst in U.S. history. A federal task force of scientists is now working to try to get a better idea how much oil is gushing from the well, and it could release data this week. The spill’s impact on shore now stretches across 150 miles, from Dauphin Island, Ala., to Grand Isle, La.


BP said Monday its costs for the spill had grown to about $760 million, including containment efforts, drilling a relief well to stop the leak permanently, grants to Gulf states for their response costs, and payment of damage claims. BP said it’s too early to calculate other potential costs and liabilities.


BP’s chief executive said Monday that he had underestimated the possible environmental impact of the massive spill. Tony Hayward walked along oil-soaked Fourchon Beach and talked with cleanup workers in white overalls and yellow boots, some shoveling oily sand into garbage cans. He said he was devastated by what he saw.


Oil is stretching further into the Louisiana wetlands. It has also hit several rookeries where pelicans nest, oiling birds and nests. Oil has also reached a 1,150-acre oyster ground leased by Belle Chasse, La., fisherman Dave Cvitanovich. He said cleanup crews were stringing lines of absorbent boom along the surrounding marshes, but that still left large clumps of rust-colored oil floating over his oyster beds. Mature oysters might eventually filter out the crude and become fit for sale, but this year’s crop of young oysters will perish. Officials said last week that 264 birds, sea turtles and dolphins had been found dead or stranded on shore and may have been affected by the spill, though Roger Helm, chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s contaminants division, said the death toll is certain to rise as the oil moves deeper into the marshes. In contrast, hundreds of thousands of birds, otters and other animals were killed after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.


The federal official overseeing the response to the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico said Monday there’d be nothing to gain by pushing BP aside and putting the government in charge. Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen told reporters at a White House briefing asked what would replace BP. Amid mounting frustration over BP PLC’S inability stop the leak that’s befouled the Gulf for a month now — and questions about why the government can’t make the company do more — Allen insisted BP was “exhausting every technical means possible to deal with that leak.”


Responding to the massive BP oil spill, Congress is getting ready to quadruple — to 32 cents a barrel — a tax on oil used to help finance cleanups. The increase would raise nearly $11 billion over the next decade. The tax is levied on oil produced in the U.S. or imported from foreign countries. The revenue goes to a fund managed by the Coast Guard to help pay to clean up spills in waterways, such as the Gulf of Mexico.


BP PLC officials say that if their high-stakes attempt to plug the leaking Gulf of Mexico well by injecting heavy drilling mud into it fails they will likely try to cap it with a small containment dome. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Monday engineers were working furiously to prepare to launch the massive “top kill” maneuver Wednesday. But Suttles says it’s not a guaranteed success and crews are already working on a backup plan to fit a small dome atop the leaking well and then pump the oil to the surface.


While no one wants it to happen, the modest mental health operation run here by AltaPointe Health Systems could soon face having to be the Little Clinic That Could. The story hasn’t unfolded in coastal Alabama, but communities studied in Prince William Sound 20 years ago showed increases in family violence, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and serious strains on mental health agencies. The research, on areas affected by the Exxon-Valdez spill, was funded by the National Science Foundation. The AltaPointe executive director says the governor has asked them to estimate what the demand there could be.


Like countless beauticians across the country, Ana La Bella has had the hair swept from the floor of her salon, wrapped in plastic bags and shipped off to help contain the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But the boxes she sent are piling up with hundreds of thousands of pounds of hair, pet fur and fleece in 19 warehouses spread throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. BP and the U.S. Coast Guard say they are not using hair to sop up the oil, and don’t plan to. Engineers said they concluded that using the hair was not feasible, and the organizations collecting the hair were asked to stop doing so.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects in lead to Monday. Moving on general news and financial services.)

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