BP oil spill update: Smooth sailing for 'top kill,' MMS director ousted
Even after the leaking well is permanently sealed, the Deepwater Horizon drama won't be anywhere near over. Just in Thursday's BP oil spill update, the MMS director is out, the spill is resized, and hearings proliferate on Capitol Hill.
(Page 2 of 3)
Even if the well is capped, one big question remains for the tarnished oil giant: whether BP will follow in the footsteps of Exxon, which now has one of the most bureaucratic – and safest – shipping organizations in the world following the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, which may pale next to the Deepwater Horizon blowout.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Louisiana oil spill
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"There's no seat-of-the-pants intuitive approach to Exxon's approach anymore," says Dr. Glab.
BP will also have to learn from a number of failures in the run-up and aftermath of the Deepwater spill, he says.
For one, BP's worst-case spill scenario as described to regulators by far underestimated the true impact of a blowout at 5,000 feet. The British oil giant didn't have enough containment booms or dispersants on hand to collar the spill. Testimony from Rep. Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts on Wednesday also indicated that BP dramatically, and knowingly, underestimated the flow of oil by several factors. As much as 19,000 barrels a day flowed out of the well, not BP's 5,000-barrel estimate, according to new government figures. That makes the total size of spill up to 20 million gallons, nearly twice the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.
Future impacts of the spill
Ecologically, the full effect of the spill on wildlife and habitats has not yet been felt, even as oil now covers nearly 100 miles of Louisiana marshland. Questions about how much of the light crude oil is suspended underwater are unanswered, even as the spill begins to threaten Florida's tourist beaches.
Politically, the Obama administration has ordered a full-court press for reform of the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, which oversees outer continental shelf drilling, all of which is likely to lead to new restrictions and safety requirements for oil companies. Myriad congressional hearings are under way.
On Thursday, President Obama ordered extending the current exploration moratorium to six months. Also this week, the government stalled Shell's plans to begin drilling in the Arctic Ocean, off Alaska. The head of the MMS also stepped down Thursday after revelations about illegal gift-exchanges at MMS' Lake Charles office.