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Oil rig explosion unmasks 'dangerous myth' of safety, lawmakers say

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion comes three weeks after the Obama administration proposed opening up parts of the Gulf for deepwater exploration. Two Democratic senators are raising broader safety concerns.

By Staff writer / April 23, 2010

Response boats work to clean up oil on Thursday near where the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank off Louisiana.

US Coast Guard/Reuters



Oil rig relief crews on Friday successfully plugged a deepwater well that was pumping 7,400 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico's 5,000-foot-deep Mississippi Canyon. But some US lawmakers are now posing tough questions about the violent three-day deep-sea drama that played out on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig 41 miles off Louisiana.

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Indeed, the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon and the ensuing spill remains troubling for a nation getting ready to expand deepwater oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and off the Eastern seaboard. Global oil exploration by companies like Transocean and BP, which operated the exploded rig, is focused on advanced rigs like the Deepwater Horizon, which are called upon to tap reserves of gas and oil situated ever deeper and farther out to sea.

“Big Oil has perpetuated a dangerous myth that coastline drilling is a completely safe endeavor, but accidents like this are a sober reminder just how far that is from the truth,” said Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg in a statement.

IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil rig explosion

The White House said Friday that President Obama has no plans to reconsider the offshore oil drilling proposal after the Deepwater Horizon accident, reports the Washington Post.

After warning about a wellhead flow of 7,400 barrels a day beneath the Deepwater Horizon, the Coast Guard on Friday said there is now no evidence of leaking oil. An industry source suggested to the oil and gas industry newspaper Upstream that a remote-controlled submarine may have been able to activate an emergency shearing ram that stopped the flow.

The $600 million fifth-generation Deepwater Horizon rig had been in the process of capping an exploratory well above the Macondo deposit when an abnormal buildup of pressure probably caused a "blowout" – the oil from which fueled a violent fire that raged for 36 hours before the rig finally exploded again and sank Thursday morning. Eleven crew members are missing and are now believed to have perished in the immediate blast.