Oil Spill Events Thursday June 3, 2010

A summary of events on Thursday, June 3, Day 44 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 cuts pipe, plans to lower cap over Gulf spill

METAIRIE, La. — BP used giant shears to slice off a pipe Thursday in the company’s latest bid to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil, but the cut was irregular and placing a cap over the gusher will now be more challenging, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.

BP had to use the shears after a diamond-tipped saw became stuck in the pipe halfway through the job, yet another frustrating delay in six weeks of failed efforts to stop, or at least curtail, the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Allen said the cap was over the spill and will be lowered in the next couple of hours. It won’t be known how much oil BP can siphon to the surface until the cap is fitted, but the irregular cut means that the fit won’t be as snug as officials had hoped.

The next chance for stopping the flow won’t come until two relief wells meant to plug the reservoir for good are finished in August.

Other oil spill events:

GIANT SHEARS

Engineers were forced yet again to reconfigure plans to execute their latest gambit to control the Gulf of Mexico gusher. BP PLC planned to use giant shears to cut a pipe a mile below the sea after a diamond-tipped saw became stuck halfway through the job. It was another frustrating delay in six weeks of failed efforts to stop, or at least curtail, the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

UNPREPARED

BP PLC’s top executive acknowledged the global oil giant was unprepared to fight a catastrophic deepwater oil spill. Chief Executive Tony Hayward told The Financial Times it was “an entirely fair criticism” to say the company had not been fully prepared for a deepwater oil leak. Hayward called it “low-probability, high-impact” accident. “What is undoubtedly true is that we did not have the tools you would want in your tool-kit,” Hayward said in an interview published in Thursday’s edition of the London-based newspaper.

INVESTIGATION

It’s virtually certain that BP and other companies involved in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will face criminal charges and civil penalties that could translate into hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. But for any company executives or workers to be indicted individually, legal experts say the Justice Department will have to find evidence they orchestrated a coverup, destroyed key documents or lied to government agents. Prosecutors could seek serious jail time — five years or more — if they charge anyone with obstruction of justice, making false statements to the FBI or other U.S. officials or conspiracy to hinder a federal probe. But there’s got to be evidence that a person was aware of the wrongdoing, well beyond mere negligence or incompetence, experts said.

COMMISSION

The new presidential commission investigating the Gulf oil spill will include two experts who have been active on the subject of global warming, including one who wrote just last month that the country should redouble efforts to lessen its dependence on oil, The Associated Press has learned. The two will join former Florida Sen. Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency chief William Reilly, whose roles as co-chairmen of the seven-member panel were previously announced. Together, the backgrounds of the four panel members selected so far suggest the commission will look at more than just what went wrong, including the bigger picture of the country’s conflicting environmental and energy needs.

SAND BARRIERS

The Coast Guard’s Allen directed BP to pay for five additional sand barrier projects in Louisiana. BP said Thursday the project will cost it about $360 million, on top of about $990 million it had spent as of its latest expense update Tuesday on response and clean up, grants to four Gulf coast states and claims from people and companies hurt by the spill.

FLORIDA

Oil drifted perilously close to the Florida Panhandle’s popular sugar-white beaches, and crews on the mainland were doing everything possible to limit the catastrophe. Forecasters said the oil would probably wash up by Friday, threatening a delicate network of islands, bays and white-sand beaches that are a haven for wildlife and a major tourist destination dubbed the Redneck Riviera. Officials said the slick sighted offshore consisted in part of “tar mats” about 500 feet by 2,000 feet in size.

DEAD BIRDS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 522 dead birds — at least 38 of them oiled — along the Gulf coast states, and more than 80 oiled birds have been rescued. It’s not clear how many of the deaths can be attributed to the spill. Dead birds and animals found during spills are kept as evidence in locked freezers until investigations and damage assessments are complete, according to Teri Frady, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Associated Press