Some oil spill events from Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Events May 19, Day 30 of a Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began with an explosion and fire April 20 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.

THE BLAME GAME

Leading Republicans including John Mica of Florida sought to pin blame for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on President Barack Obama’s administration. During a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing Wednesday, Mica cited Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s acknowledgment Tuesday that his agency could have more aggressively monitored the offshore drilling industry. Mica said the administration failed to heed warnings about the need for more regulation and issued “a carte blanche” for disaster when it approved drilling for dozens of wells including the Deepwater Horizon site leased by oil giant BP PLC. Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., called that inflammatory and wrong. He said the drilling was approved early in the Obama administration, by career officials.

TAR BALLS

Tar balls that floated ashore in the Florida Keys were not linked to the oil spill, the Coast Guard said Wednesday. That did little to soothe fears the blown-out well gushing a mile underwater could spread damage along the coast from Louisiana to Florida.

WHERE IS IT GOING?

Government scientists were surveying the Gulf to determine if the oil had entered a powerful current that could take it to Florida.

HOW MUCH?

Questions remained about just how much oil is spilling from the well. New underwater video released by BP showed oil and gas erupting under pressure in large, dark clouds from its crippled blowout preventer on the ocean floor. The leaks resembled a geyser on land.

LAWSUITS

More than 100 lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the vast Gulf of Mexico oil spill should be combined quickly in one federal court to avoid legal chaos and delay payment of billions of dollars in damages, an attorney said Wednesday. Louisiana lawyer Daniel Becnel wants lawsuits pending in five Gulf Coast states consolidated in federal court in New Orleans or elsewhere in Louisiana, the state hit hardest so far.

CUBA

U.S and Cuban officials are holding “working level” talks on how to respond to the oil spill, a State Department official told The Associated Press. The talks add to signs of concern that strong currents could carry the slick far from the spill’s origin off Louisiana, possibly threatening the Florida Keys and pristine white beaches along Cuba’s northern coast. They are also a rare moment of cooperation between two countries locked in conflict for more than half a century.

PROFESSOR

A St. Louis scientist who was among a select group picked by the Obama administration to pursue solutions to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been dropped because of controversial writings on his website. The Energy Department confirmed Wednesday that Washington University physics professor Jonathan Katz was removed because his previous writings had “become a distraction.” Katz’s website includes articles defending homophobia and questioning the value of diversity efforts. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Associated Press