A summary of events Monday, July 12, Day 83 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.
BP AFFIXES NEW CAP
BP robots attached a new, tighter-fitting cap on top of the gushing Gulf of Mexico oil leak Monday, raising hopes that the crude could be kept from polluting the water for the first time in nearly three months.
Placing the cap on top of the leak was the climax of two days of delicate preparation work and a day of slowly lowering it into position a mile below the sea. The capping project — akin to building an underwater Lego tower — is just a temporary fix, but the oil giant’s best hope for containing the spill.
The next unknown is whether the 18-foot-high, 150,000-pound metal stack of pipes and valves will work. BP plans to start tests Tuesday, gradually shutting the valves to see if the oil stops or if it starts leaking from another part of the well.
Residents have been skeptical BP can deliver on its promise to control the spill, but the news was still welcome on the coast. Dwayne Touchet, a 44-year-old shrimper from Welsh, La., said he was relieved to hear the cap was on and can only pray that it works. Touchet is working in the Vessels of Opportunity program, where BP employs local boat owners and fisherman out of work because of the spill.
“It’s not over, there’s still a lot of oil to clean up. We don’t know how it will affect it (the water) in the years to come, all we can do is trust in the Lord,” he said.
Around 6:30 p.m. CDT, live video streams trained on the wellhead showed the cap being slowly lowered into place, 11 hours after BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said the company was close to putting the seal in place. BP officials said the device was attached around 7 p.m.
The cap will be tested and monitored to see if it can withstand pressure from oil and gas starting Tuesday morning for six to 48 hours, according to National Incident Commander Thad Allen. On his Facebook page, Allen also shared news of the development. “Getting there,” Allen wrote in a status update shortly after the cap landed on the well.
The Obama administration was issuing a new revised moratorium on offshore drilling Monday. Two administration officials have told The Associated Press of the plans. Both requested anonymity so as not to pre-empt the official announcement. Last week, a federal appeals court rejected the government’s effort to restore its initial offshore deepwater drilling moratorium, which halted the approval of any new permits for deepwater projects and suspended drilling on 33 exploratory wells. It was first rejected last month by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at the time that he would issue a new, refined moratorium.
The presidential panel that is supposed to find out the cause of the Gulf oil spill is starting by focusing more on the response and impact. Monday was the start of a two-day New Orleans hearing by the National Oil Spill Commission. Amid interruptions by protesters, the talk from oil executives, experts and regular people was more about the aftermath of the spill than why it happened. Commissioners say that’s by design. They want to know the disaster’s impact.
First lady Michelle Obama arrived in Florida on Monday to meet with local community leaders and tourism officials. The Panhandle city recently opened a new international airport to draw additional tourists to the area, but the oil spill has kept many away — even though pollution on local beaches has been minor so far.
The former federal prosecutor who now heads the government agency that oversees offshore drilling says he is not afraid to fine lawbreaking oil companies or even put some executives in jail. But Michael Bromwich says he is not an anti-drilling zealot and will probably take actions that upset both industry groups and those who oppose drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and other sites. Bromwich says he comes at the matter straight down the middle. He spoke with The Associated Press in his first interview since being sworn in last month as head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement — formerly the Minerals Management Service.
The head of the $20 billion oil spill compensation fund says individuals filing claims will soon begin receiving six-month emergency checks instead of monthly payments. Appearing in Pensacola Beach on Monday, fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg said the company will start paying individuals in six-month payments in the next couple of weeks. Feinberg also said there’s no reason for individuals affected by the massive Gulf of Mexico spill to file lawsuits — at least not yet. Feinberg urged claimants to see how much he’d be able to pay them for before suing.
BP’s oil money may pay for a series of free beach concerts to lure tourists to the Alabama coast, where the Gulf spill has wrecked the summer season. Jimmy Buffett gave a free show on the beach Sunday that drew thousands to Gulf Shores. Officials say they hope to follow up with more big-name performers through the fall. Buffett performed for free and promoters hope other artists would also donate their time. Promoters say acts may include country singers Faith Hill and Zac Brown and soft rocker Jack Johnson. The money for staging the shows would come from funding BP gave Alabama and other Gulf states to promote tourism hurt by the oil company’s massive spill. BP’s tourism grant to Alabama was $15 million, of which $3.5 million paid for the Buffett concert.
The smallest victims are the biggest challenge for crews rescuing birds fouled with oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill. There’s no way to know how many chicks have been killed by the oil, or starved because their parents were rescued or died struggling in a slick. Chicks come in cold because oil has matted down the fluffy down that’s meant to keep them warm. They must be warmed quickly just to survive long enough to be cleaned. And the youngest pelican chicks must be taught to eat. On the other hand, baby sea turtles — the vast majority of more than 100 rescued — are much easier to handle than adults. The babies weigh only a few pounds, while the two adults brought in weighed 85 and 150 pounds.
The Associated Press