Gulf oil spill worsened by robot collision

Gulf oil spill: A undersea collision involving one of the robots used in the BP gulf oil spill containment effort allowed more oil to gush unchecked into Gulf waters.

Gulf oil spill: A collision involving a robot used in undersea oil containment (not pictured) allowed more oil and gas to spill into the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday, which can be seen in this frame grab captured from a BP live video feed

Oil gushed largely unchecked from BP's ruptured Gulf of Mexico well on Wednesday after a collision involving an undersea robot halted efforts to contain the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

While the energy giant struggled to restart its oil collection operation, a top Obama administration official told lawmakers in Washington that initial findings showed "reckless conduct" in the days leading up to the April 20 explosion that blew up an offshore oil rig and ruptured the well.

BP also faced the threat of a new lawsuit from investors angry over the halving of its stock price since the start of the crisis. The U.S. Coast Guard meanwhile reported the deaths of two workers helping to clean up the oil spill. The deaths were unrelated to the collision between an undersea robot and the containment cap system, which channels leaking oil from BP's blown-out well to a ship on the surface.

IN PICTURES: Sticky mess: The Gulf oil spill's impact on nature

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the Obama administration's point man for the oil spill, told reporters the containment cap system could restart later on Wednesday after safety checks. He said the flow of oil from the well was not completely unchecked. Some was still being burned off on the surface.

The containment cap system installed on June 3 captured 16,600 barrels on Tuesday, BP said. A separate oil-flaring system that collected 10,5000 barrels is still operating. A team of U.S. scientists estimate the leak is spewing up to 60,000 barrels a day.

In Washington, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he would soon issue a new ban on deepwater drilling off the U.S. coast that would be more flexible than the moratorium overturned a day earlier by a federal judge in New Orleans. He said the ban would include criteria detailing when the ban, originally six months, would end. It might allow oil companies to drill in certain low-risk areas.

"We will in the weeks and months ahead take a look at how it is that the moratorium in place might be refined," he told a Senate sub-committee. Salazar did not indicate when he would reissue the ban.

He also said that preliminary investigations showed there was reckless behavior involved in the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in which 11 workers were killed. However, he did not single out any company. BP leased the rig from Transocean and was a part owner in the ruptured well with Anadarko.

BP, already battling lawsuits and a criminal investigation, faced the threat of new legal action on Wednesday after New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the state pension fund planned to sue to recover losses from the drop in the company's stock price.(Writing Andrew Callus and Ross Colvin; Editing by Alan Elsner)


IN PICTURES: Sticky mess: The Gulf oil spill's impact on nature

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