Af­ter 100 days, Gulf still faces hur­dles

Govern­ment of­fi­cials fo­cus on work left to be done

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION -

AT­LANTA — With BP’s trou­bled oil well tem­po­rar­ily capped and a per­ma­nent fix pro­gress­ing, govern­ment of­fi­cials marked the 100th day of the Gulf of Mex­ico spill Wed­nes­day by not­ing the chal­lenges ahead in re­solv­ing one of the worst en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems in the nation’s his­tory.

“I would char­ac­ter­ize this as the first 100 days,” Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, the fed­eral on-scene co­or­di­na­tor, said at a news brief­ing in New Or­leans. “We have a lot of work in front of us.”

In Congress, law­mak­ers bick­ered over pro­posed rules that would de­fine the off­shore in­dus­try’s fu­ture. And on CNN, new BP Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Robert Dud­ley of­fered a qual­i­fied as­sur­ance that his com­pany’s gusher, if not the af­ter­ef­fects, was a thing of the past.

“I think — no guar­an­tees — but I be­lieve there will be no more oil flow­ing into the Gulf as of the 15th of July,” he said, re­fer­ring to the day crews tem­po­rar­ily sealed the well with a gi­ant me­chan­i­cal cap.

One of the most im­por­tant chal­lenges will be BP’s at­tempt to per­ma­nently seal the well, which had been leak­ing as many as 60,000 bar­rels of oil per day since the April 20 ex­plo­sion of the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon rig. An at­tempt to tamp down the oil with heavy drilling mud in­jected from the top — the so-called static kill — will prob­a­bly be­gin late Sun­day or early Mon­day.

Then, around Aug. 10, crews will at­tempt to in­ter­sect the well far un­der­sea with a re­lief bore that they will use to jam mud and ce­ment into the bot­tom of the rene­gade well.

Thad Allen, the fed­eral spill re­sponse chief, said Wed­nes­day that he had high hopes for the ma­neu­vers but that backup plans in­clude a sec­ond re­lief well and, if that fails, a scheme to draw off the oil to nearby pro­duc­tion plat­forms.

On Capi­tol Hill, Sen. Bill Nel­son, D-Fla., called for a con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion into BP’s plans to write off about $10 bil­lion be­cause of cleanup costs.

Rep. Char­lie Me­lan­con, D-La., in a let­ter to Dud­ley, called on BP to de­vote the tax cred­its to coastal restora­tion projects in Louisiana. “This ac­tion does noth­ing but fur­ther hurt the name of your com­pany and pro­voke anger and despair in the res­i­dents of Louisiana,” he wrote.

Le­gal fall­out grows with spill

The spill has un­leashed a gusher of at least 250 class-ac­tion law­suits that could even­tu­ally en­com­pass mil­lions of vic­tims in a mas­sive le­gal bat­tle ex­pected to stretch on for decades.

The first step in what many ex­perts pre­dict will be among the most com­plex en­vi­ron­men­tal cases to hit the U.S. courts be­gins to­day when an army of attorneys con­verges on Boise, Idaho, where a fed­eral panel will be­gin to de­cide what judge or judges will over­see the cases and where they will be ini­tially heard.

Ef­fort to clean Michi­gan spill

Michi­gan’s gover­nor on Wed­nes­day sharply crit­i­cized at­tempts to con­tain a large oil spill mak­ing its way down the Kala­ma­zoo River af­ter the com­pany re­spon­si­ble for the spill said it had re­dou­bled its ef­forts to clean up the mess.

Gov. Jen­nifer Gran­holm called on the fed­eral govern­ment for more help, say­ing re­sources be­ing mar­shaled by the fed­eral En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency and En­bridge Inc. are “wholly in­ad­e­quate.” En­bridge has been work­ing to clean up the spill since it said its pipe­line in south­ern Michi­gan on Mon­day leaked more than 800,000 gal­lons of oil into Talmadge Creek, which runs into the Kala­ma­zoo River.

Pa­trick Semansky

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists are push­ing for faster restora­tion of the oil-dam­aged Mis­sis­sippi River Delta, which in­cludes a camp near Houma, La., seen Wed­nes­day.

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