Some oil spill events from Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Some oil spill events from Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A summary of events Tuesday, July 20, Day 91 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 poured into the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well until BP managed to stanch the leak Thursday — at least temporarily — with a massive cap.


Oil from BP’s blown out well is again seeping into the Gulf of Mexico, but this time more slowly, and scientists aren’t convinced the cap that stopped the flow last week is making things worse. The government said Monday that oil was seeping into the Gulf after days of warning that the experimental cap on the oil well could cause more leaks. Despite what at first seemed a setback, though, the federal government declared the development insignificant and forged ahead with BP’s plan for finally sealing the hole in the ocean floor. At a Monday afternoon briefing in Washington, the retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said BP could keep the cap closed at least another 24 hours, as long as the company remained alert for leaks.


Ever since the cap was used to bottle up the oil last week, engineers have been watching underwater cameras and monitoring pressure and seismic readings to see whether the well would hold or spring a new leak, perhaps one that could rupture the sea floor and make the disaster even worse. Small amounts of oil and gas started coming from the cap late Sunday, but “we do not believe it is consequential at this time,” retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said. Also, seepage from the sea floor was detected over the weekend less than two miles away. But Allen said it probably has nothing to do with the well. Oil and gas are known to ooze naturally from fissures in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.


Since the cap was closed Thursday, beachgoers have reported less oil fouling the shore. Bob Broadway, 41, of Huntsville, Ala., said his vacation spot in Orange Beach, Ala., has improved from a month ago. Then, he said, the oil was thick “like chocolate” and the beach smelled like “an old mechanic’s garage.” ”The beach looks better now than before,” he said Monday.


Work on a permanent plug is moving steadily, with crews drilling into the side of the ruptured well from deep underground. By next week, they could start blasting in mud and cement to block off the well for good. Killing the well deep underground works more reliably than bottling it up with a cap.


The federal judge who overturned the Obama administration’s initial six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling has refused to disqualify himself from the case. Several environmental groups had asked U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman to withdraw because of his investments in several oil and gas companies. Feldman refused in an order issued Friday and posted Monday. Earlier this month, a federal appeals court rejected the government’s bid to restore its temporary ban on issuing new permits for deepwater drilling and suspension of 33 existing drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico. The Justice Department later issued a new moratorium that it hopes will pass muster with the courts.


For decades, billions poured into Gulf Coast states that allowed oil drilling off their shores. Economies grew, jobs were created and millionaires were born all along the waterfront. Everywhere, that is, except Florida. People of all political stripes largely banded together in the Sunshine State, united in opposition to offshore drilling and confident the peninsula’s $61 billion tourist-driven economy hinged on a pristine environment. Fearing the doomsday an accident could bring — or simply the sight of rigs from beaches — Florida rejected drilling. But doomsday came anyway. As Floridians see their white sand beaches getting fouled by the spill, many are angry at their Gulf Coast neighbors.


Musician Shamarr Allen was flying back into Louis Armstrong International Airport when he got his first real glimpse of the BP oil spill. The words of CEO Tony Hayward’s TV spot — “To those affected and your families, I’m deeply sorry” — were ringing in his ears. Allen was exhausted after playing a private party, but he couldn’t sleep until he and some friends had laid down their response. Like the oil from the Deepwater Horizon drill rig, “Sorry Ain’t Enough No More” came gushing out. He’s among many artists who have expressed their anger — in music, poetry, paint, glass and pretty much every other medium. Often proceeds from the art go to a nonprofit group fighting the spill or its results.

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