BP accused of cover-up

VENICE, La./WASHINGTON Thu May 20, 2010 7:36pm EDT

1 of 26. Maura Wood, Senior Program Manager, Coastal Louisiana Restoration for National Wildlife Federation takes a sample of water in a heavily oiled marsh near Pass a Loutre, Louisiana, May 20, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Lee Celano

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VENICE, La./WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government Thursday accused energy giant BP of falling short in the information it has provided about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, in a clear sign of Washington's growing frustration with BP's handling of the spiraling environmental disaster.

"In responding to this oil spill, it is critical that all actions be conducted in a transparent manner, with all data and information related to the spill readily available to the United States government and the American people," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter.

The officials said in a letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward that despite claims by BP that it was striving to keep the public and the government informed, "those efforts, to date, have fallen short in both their scope and effectiveness."

The statement followed allegations earlier in the day that BP had engaged in a "cover-up" about the extent of the damage and the amount of crude flowing unchecked from its ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico.

TV images of oil sloshing into Louisiana's marshes has underscored the gravity of the situation and raised public concern and anger about the unfolding catastrophe, keeping it high up on the political agenda in Washington.

BP shares closed up one percent Thursday but the markets have raked around $30 billion from its value in the month since the rig explosion, which killed 11 workers and sparked the disaster-in-the-making.

BP said Thursday it was siphoning 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons/795,000 liters) per day of oil from the gusher, from 3,000 barrels a day previously.

"The oil plume escaping from the riser pipe has visibly declined today," BP spokesman Mark Proegler said after the company announced that a mile-long tube was tapping into the larger of two leaks from the well.

However, live video feed of the leak, provided by BP, showed a black plume of crude oil still billowing out into the deep waters.

BP has been estimating the leak was flowing at a rate of 5,000 barrels per day, but scientists and the government have questioned that figure.

SKEPTICAL

Scientists analyzing video of the oil gushing from the seabed have pegged the spill's volume at about 70,000 barrels (2.9 million gallons/11 million liters) per day.

"It's just not working," U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told CNN as she watched the BP video. The California Democrat denounced a "cover-up" of the real size of the oil spill.

U.S. Representative Edward Markey, who requested the footage, was also unimpressed.

"BP has stonewalled on releasing the video for 23 days. ... If you look at the video you can see plumes of oil spilling into the Gulf far in excess of 5,000 barrels per day," he told reporters in Washington.

Proegler and other BP spokesmen made clear the increased containment, while an advance, was not siphoning all the escaping oil. "We're not claiming that we stopped it -- although that is our final objective. We're saying that this is what we're capturing now," he said.

The U.S. government, grappling with a potentially huge environmental and economic disaster, also said Thursday it would not rely only on data provided by BP, but would make its own checks on the magnitude of the leak.

In other developments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered BP to identify safer dispersants within 24 hours that can be used to contain the spill.

The EPA Thursday directed BP to begin using this safer dispersant within 72 hours. If BP can not identify an available alternative dispersant, the company must provide EPA and the Coast Guard with the reasons they believe no other dispersant meets required standards.

The use of dispersants, including those manufactured by Nalco Holding Co., at such high rates and at such deep levels has set off alarm bells with some environmentalists, who worry the chemicals may have a lasting negative impact.

'BP'S MESS'

Sheets of heavy oil came ashore in Louisiana's wetlands on Wednesday for the first time since the rig exploded a month ago. The marshes are nurseries for shrimp, oysters, crabs and fish that make Louisiana the top commercial seafood producer in the continental United States. Fishing is now banned in a large part of the Gulf waters because of the spill.

In Pass-a-Loutre, Louisiana, thick sheets of gooey brown oil swamped islands of marsh grass at the southern tip of a Mississippi River channel Thursday.

"To see the extent to which it is oiled and the depth into the island is stunning," said Maura Wood of the National Wildlife Federation's Coastal Louisiana Restoration Project.

The oil pollution covers only a fragment of the vast network of waterways, channels and islands that make up the Delta region, but environmentalists fear it is just the start.

"It's going to take a long time for us to recover from BP's mess," boat captain Richard Blink said.

(Additional reporting by Anna Driver in Houston, Richard Cowan, Jeff Mason, Tabassum Zakaria, Vicki Allen in Washington, Tom Bergin in London and Tom Brown and Pascal Fletcher in Miami; Writing by Ed Stoddard and Jane Sutton; editing by Todd Eastham)

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Comments (62)
MRELEVEN wrote:
The Gulf Oil Crisis should be taken extremely seriously and must be resolved. To do so we must let the crisis reveal the solution rather than just looking to the patterns of the past. So far these efforts of the past have led to failure and a growing menace. Let us observe the Biblical magnitude of this event by taking full responsibility for our mind, our actions, and the world.

http://sites.google.com/site/gulfcrisisobservations/

May 19, 2010 11:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
whatsgoody wrote:
The action and reaction of BP has been absolutely pathetic; Any barrel/day number they give us next should be multiplied by 10.

This is gonna get ugly; and its not even closed yet; BP is still trying to re-coup what they’re going to lose in the cleanup efforts by siphoning off “3000 barrels/day” ( Which is probably a high end estimate by BP )

All in all just another day in the office for BP….

May 19, 2010 12:19am EDT  --  Report as abuse
chicago773 wrote:
BP is obviously lying about the magnitude of the gulf oil spill to keep investors buying stock at such a low price to help finance the clean up. Every negative story headlined on Google Finance under NYSE: BP, is quickly removed. I’ve noticed that on a daily basis. Someone is obviously removing the negative stories or requesting their removal. This spill is very dangerous to both the economy, as well as to the entire ecology surrouding the gulf, and shore. I do not understand how investors cannot recognize this. The spill is obviously more then 5000 barrels a day. It is not just one scientist speaking out, but plenty. BP and the Coast Guard barred reporters from the coast to take pictures. This spill is definitally more then the 1989 Exxon Mobil, and it has definitally surpassed the Q1 profits. The Atlantis platform is going to be shut down due to a law suit which is crucial for their profits, but theyre also being sued for conspiracy. BP has too long been eating til they were fat while neglecting safety responsibility. Its besides the fact the oil has been spilled GREATLY into the ecology. But what about the 11 lives that were lost? I think not only the public has spoken, but the government is embarassed by BP.

May 19, 2010 12:24am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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