BP Promises 'Major Protection and Cleaning Effort' Onshore

Top federal officials from Interior, Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will visit the oil spill zone along the Louisiana coast today as efforts mount to contain the damage onshore.

Secretaries Ken Salazar and Janet Napolitano and Administrator Lisa Jackson will make an aerial tour a day after Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Thursday and asked the Department of Defense to send as many as 6,000 active-duty troops to aid in the cleanup.

BP found a third leak in the system and the oil company and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now estimate that 5,000 barrels of oil per day are spilling from the well, which is five times higher than last week's initial estimate. The drilling of a relief well will take 60 to 90 days, company officials say.

At least 10 state and national wildlife management areas and wildlife refuges in Louisiana and Mississippi are in the path of the oil plume coming from the well a mile down in the Gulf of Mexico because of leaks caused by the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform last week, according to Jindal's declaration, which listed the Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge and the Gulf Islands National Seashore National Park among them.

Napolitano designated the incident as a spill of national significance, which allows the government to draw down assets from across the country and other coastal areas.

BP, the responsible party for the cleanup, today said it is "ramping up preparations for a major protection and cleaning effort on the shorelines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida" and is supplementing its Houma, La., incident command post with a second command post in Mobile, Ala., to oversee the onshore response in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

"We are doing absolutely everything in our power to eliminate the source of the leak and contain the environmental impact of the spill. We are determined to fight this spill on all fronts, in the deep waters of the Gulf, in the shallow waters and, should it be necessary, on the shore," said BP Group Chief Executive Tony Hayward. "In the past few days I have seen the full extent of BP's global resources and capability being brought to bear on this problem and welcome the offers of further assistance we have had from government agencies, oil companies, and members of the public to defend the shoreline and fight this spill. We are determined to succeed."

In a news briefing at the White House, Napolitano outlined the work being done to manage the spill:

  • a controlled burn designed to remove large quantities of oil from the open water was consumed in about 28 minutes on Wednesday;
  • nearly 100,000 gallons of dispersant had been used Thursday;
  • on-water skimming, subsurface wellhead operations, and efforts to see if the response team can get that shut-off valve to close are continuing, and significant booming efforts are under way to protect the shoreline;
  • at least 174,000 feet of boom had been deployed by Thursday, and other boom is ready to be deployed at six staging areas;
  • approximately 1,100 total personnel are working the spill; and
  • 685,000 gallons of oily water had been collected, using nearly 50 vessels and multiple aircraft.

Jackson explained that EPA has air-monitoring aircraft gathering information on the impact of the controlled burn on air quality and is collecting air data from fixed and portable air-monitoring stations in the area. "We’ll analyze that data and make it public in the coming days, certainly as soon as possible, along with the air-monitoring plan, which is in draft and which will be revised as we go along, and as the situation changes," she added.

"Finally, as the oil does hit the shoreline, EPA will provide support to assess the impacts on the coastal shoreline and play a key role in implementing the cleanup," Jackson said. "As a daughter of the Gulf Coast, I know that it is our job to ensure people that we will be eyes and ears working with the states who have valuable and vital resources to monitor air, water and land quality."

BP and the other owners of the drilling lease are spending about $6 million per day on the response, a figure that "is expected to rise as activity increases," according to BP, which added, "It is too early to quantify other potential costs and liabilities associated with the incident."

The Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service on April 28 announced that it has canceled the 2010 Annual Industry SAFE Awards Luncheon scheduled for May 3 at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston because MMS personnel are busy responding to the spill.

The semisubmersible drilling platform sank two days after an explosion and fire at 10 p.m. April 20, when 126 workers were on the rig. Eleven who have not been found are presumed to have died in the incident.

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