Oil spill events June 20, 2010

By The Associated Press

A summary of events on Sunday, June 20, Day 61 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.

WHITE HOUSE

President Barack Obama’s chief of staff is warning about what might happen if Republicans — who have defended BP over the Gulf oil spill — were to run Congress after the fall election. Rahm Emanuel told ABC’s “This Week” that the GOP philosophy is to paint BP as the victim. He said Obama will make clear to voters the fundamental differences in how each party would govern. Emanuel said GOP lawmakers and candidates are attacking the administration for demanding that BP set up a $20 billion compensation fund. Last week, Rep. Joe Barton apologized to BP for what he called a White House “shakedown.” The Texas Republican later stepped back from those remarks.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO

Newly released internal documents show BP PLC estimated 4.2 million gallons of oil a day could gush from a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico if all equipment restricting the flow was removed and company models were wrong. Democratic Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey released the documents Sunday showing BP said in a worst-case scenario the leak could gush between 2.3 million and 4.2 million gallons of oil per day. The current worst-case estimate of what’s leaking is 2.5 million gallons a day. The documents anticipate a scenario where the blowout preventer and other equipment on the sea floor were removed, which was never done. BP spokesman Tony Odone said the documents were submitted to Congress before BP America President Lamar McKay testified in early May.

RELIEF WELLS

Drilling crews were grinding ever deeper to build the relief wells that are the best hope of stopping the massive oil leak at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The crew of Transocean Ltd.’s Development Driller II finished pouring cement to firm up a section of metal casing lining one of two relief wells. BP and government officials say the wells are the best option for cutting off the gusher that has spilled as much as 125 million gallons into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon exploded.

SPILL COMMISSION

The panel appointed by President Barack Obama to investigate the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has yet to meet, yet some panel members are making their views known, with one member blogging about it regularly. Only one of the seven commissioners, the dean of Harvard’s engineering and applied sciences school, has a prominent engineering background — but it’s in optics and physics. Another is an environmental scientist with expertise in coastal areas and the after effects of oil spills. Both are praised by other scientists. The five other commissioners are experts in policy and management. The White House said the commission will focus on the government’s “too cozy” relationship with the oil industry. Environmental activist Frances Beinecke on May 27 blogged about “America’s addiction to oil.” Two other commissioners also have gone public to urge bans on drilling.

BP CLAIMS

The head of the new office set up to handle damage claims for the Gulf oil spill is pledging that all eligible and legitimate claims will be paid — and paid promptly. Ken Feinberg, who’s the chief of the Independent Claims Facility, wants victims to come forward, file a claim for an emergency payment and then work with the office to come up with a claims program. Last week BP agreed to President Barack Obama’s request for a $20 billion compensation fund. Speaking Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Feinberg dismissed one Republican’s description of the fund as a “shakedown.” He said he’s been getting bipartisan advice and that it doesn’t help to “politicize” the program.

FLORIDA TARBALLS

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist toured a boom staging area Sunday and took a boat tour to monitor efforts to prevent more oil from washing ashore in Florida’s Panhandle. Crist’s tour from Port St. Joe comes as tar balls continue to wash ashore in scattered spots from Pensacola to Grayton Beach in Walton County. The Gulf Oil Spill Economic Recovery Task Force has scheduled a series of meetings and public hearings starting this week to discuss the impact of the spill on Florida’s economy.

SHRIMP CATCH

Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says the shrimp catch in May could be the second-worst on record because of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The Courier newspaper in Houma, La., says reasons cited include areas closed because of the spill and some shrimpers’ decisions to clean up oil instead of trawling. Biologist Marty Bourgeois says preliminary figures show 4.1 million pounds of headless shrimp landed last month. That’s two-thirds below last year’s May catch of 17.4 million pounds.