After 100 days, Gulf still faces hurdles
Government officials focus on work left to be done
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.
Environmentalists are pushing for faster restoration of the oil-damaged Mississippi River Delta, which includes a camp near Houma, La., seen Wednesday.