Gulf Oil Spill – The Latest

For updates dated from May 16 to the early morning hours of May 26, click here. And for older updates prior to May 16, click here.

6-1-10, 8:45 a.m. – At the spill site, BP is now on to the Lower Marine Riser Cap idea. This one might be more of a long shot than the Macondome, Top Hat or top kill were, but it’s the New Best Option for the company to try in an effort to stop the leak from the Macondo well in advance of the relief well being complete at the end of July or beginning of August.

The best description of the LMRC option can be found here; it’s a video briefing from yesterday by BP’s Kent Wells about how it works. In a nutshell, though, by Wednesday or Thursday the company expects to have sheared off the marine riser package from the blowout preventer, which will make a clean surface atop the BOP, and then will attach a cap firmly onto the structure which will connect up a new riser to the Transocean drillship Enterprise; from there the oil will be collected and the natural gas flared off. Because the cap will correct directly onto the BOP, it’s thought, that the problems of seawater getting into the cap and interacting with the gas to form methane hydrates, which doomed the collection dome projects, won’t be a problem. BP expects to pump methanol into the mix at the time of connection to further address that problem.

BP is also using the Helix Q4000 vessel and the hoses and manifold apparatus they attached to the BOP for the top kill operation as a secondary mechanism to extract the oil and gas from the well. Basically, the plan is to reverse the flow; while in a top kill the idea is to pump drilling mud and junk into the BOP, what they’re going to do now is pump oil and gas out from the choke and kill valves in the BOP up to the surface. This should be ready in a couple of weeks, at which time BP will have two methods of bringing oil and gas from the well up to the surface under control; and they’ll have the ability to regulate flow between the two in order to minimize any problems which might come up.

They’re also constructing something to deal with a hurricane should one blow up in the Gulf before the relief wells are complete. BP is within three weeks to a month going to drop another manifold, and attach a line from the LMRC to it. This third package will connect to a massive floating can which will sit about 300 feet below the surface – below the depth at which foul weather would affect it. A detachable line from the can to a collection vessel would then allow for extraction. Should a storm come, the surface ships would then be able to seek shelter without risk of a further spill, and then return to the scene and continue extraction until the relief well is finished.

BP says the first relief well is currently at a depth of 12,600 feet. That’s about 70 percent of the way down. Of course, they’ve got to actually hit the Macondo well once they get to 18,000 feet, and that’s not a guarantee – which is one reason why the President demanded that two relief wells be spudded. The second well is at about 8,500 feet at present.
5-29-10, 6:15 p.m. – It didn’t work.

What we were concerned about, namely the fact that the Macondo blowout preventer had too many cracks and too much opportunity for pressure to release out of it, has ultimately doomed the top kill operation BP has been attempting. The company gave top kill a 60-70 percent chance of success, but the fact is with the BOP’s integrity so compromised they just couldn’t jam drilling mud far enough down that hole to have it plug the thing. They could stop the oil, at least while the mud was being pumped, but it’s not really feasible to be “top killing” between now and the time the relief wells are finished in late July or early August.

So the next move is a Lower Marine Riser Cap:

The UK supermajor now plans to cut off the riser from the lower marine riser package (LMRP) and attach another to collect the flow.

A process that is expected to take four to seven days, Suttles said.

The device would be coupled to a flex joint above the LMRP with a sealing grommet to keep water out of the flow and control gas hydrate formation.

The cap also has valves to inject methanol directly into the production stream, while hot water could be circulated between the drilling pipe and the riser, both of which would limit hydrate formation.

BP has already lowered more than one LMRP cap to the seafloor so the UK supermajor can determine which one will will best and deploy it as soon as possible.

The LMRP cap would allow BP to capture as much of the flow from the well as possible while it works on other options to kill the well, he said.

He announced Wednesday that BP preferred option in that instance would be to add a second BOP on top of the first.

We don’t pretend to know a lot about this stuff, but we can’t help but think that had the top kill been ready a couple of weeks earlier, the BOP’s integrity might have been such that it could have worked. Those holes and vents at the top of the thing are a product of abrasion – oil shooting up at high pressure through the casing string will gash out the concrete casing and crash it against the BOP when it gets to the wellhead, and over time it’s going to make holes.

This isn’t a criticism. A lot of preparation had to go into the top kill, and a lot of what they tried they had to invent. It’s just an observation.

But the overwhelming feeling one gets in watching this nightmare play out is that while deepwater drilling is clearly capable of delivering high-value results – as terrible as the Macondo spill might be, for example, there is no question that this is one incredibly productive well – it’s going to require some leaps in technology to make this process safe. If you can’t stop a leak out of a wellhead in the case of a blowout, it’s a legitimate question whether you should drill that well.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t drill offshore. What it does mean is that we should prioritize shallow-water drilling, where if there’s a spill you can address and stop it quickly and effectively. And while deepwater oil exploration represents the most advanced technology in the world outside of space exploration, that technology clearly isn’t perfected. For example it might be time for someone to re-engineer the concept of a blowout preventer and come up with something completely different.

It will be interesting to see if the federal government will now kick BP to the curb. We doubt that idea of a battleship being sunk on top of the well will actually be put in place, but blowing the thing up sure might happen if the feds get involved.

5-28-10, 11:00 p.m. – What did that man say? Spare no expense, was it?

Or something like that.

And he’s had his people talk about how they’ll be pushing BP aside and letting the real experts get a crack at this thing.

Except if an Obama proposal had made it through Congress there’d be no funding for real experts:

Three months before the massive BP oil spill erupted in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration proposed downsizing the Coast Guard national coordination center for oil spill responses, prompting its senior officers to warn that the agency’s readiness for catastrophic events would be weakened.

That proposal is feeding a mounting debate over whether the federal government is able to regulate deep-sea oil extraction. Defense analysts and retired agency leaders question whether the Coast Guard — which shares oversight of offshore drilling with the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service — has the expertise and resources to keep pace with industry advances.

Accidents happen, “but what you’re seeing here is the government is not properly set up to deal with this kind of issue,” said Robbin Laird, a defense consultant who has worked on Coast Guard issues. “The idea that you would even think about getting rid of catastrophic environmental spill equipment or expertise at the Department of Homeland Security, are you kidding me?”

And what is it we’re funding instead of emergency response activities, again? $165 billion to bail out SEIU’s pension fund?

5-28-10, 8:15 p.m. – Let’s talk about Corexit some more.

Our readers know from reporting we did last week that a couple of rabble-rousing imbeciles in Congress, namely Ed Markey and Jerrold Nadler, had spent last week on a crusade to demonize BP for its use of the chemical dispersant, calling it toxic, unsafe and ineffective, and spreading panic about its use. Markey and Nadler did what they did for two reasons; first, they were looking for a way to get on TV as defenders of the planet, and second, they uncovered the scintillating fact that the head of Nalco, the company which makes Corexit, used to be an executive at BP.

Except that amid the storm of fecal matter Markey and Nadler were generating, which resulted last Thursday in EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s call for BP to stop using Corexit and find another dispersant within 72 hours, the company decided it had enough of Markey and Nadler and demogogues like them interfering with its efforts to remediate the spill – and in a move which was surprising given its PR risks, BP told the EPA it wasn’t going to stop using Corexit. BP said Corexit was as safe as any other dispersant on the market, that it was effective, and that it was the only stuff available in the quantities they needed to work this spill.

That brought on the howling of banshees, but the EPA backed down. And furthermore, Jackson had to admit BP’s use of Corexit directly on the spill didn’t cause any ecological damage. Mary Landry of the Coast Guard said that but for Corexit a lot more oil would have already made it to shore. And now, you’re not hearing anything else about Corexit. Everything died down pretty quickly, didn’t it?

Well, via, here is the truth about Corexit.

First, Corexit 9500 – which is Nalco’s top-of-the-line product; Corexit 9527 was their old stuff, and while BP has used both it’s the 9500 version which has been the main product being applied to the spill – is a blend of six different ingredients.

  • One ingredient is used as a wetting agent in dry gelatin, beverage mixtures and fruit juice drinks.
  • A second ingredient is used in a brand-name dry skin cream and also in a body shampoo.
  • A third ingredient is found in a popular brand of baby bath liquid.
  • A fourth ingredient is found extensively in cosmetics and is also used as a surface-active agent and emulsifier for agents used in food contact.
  • A fifth ingredient is used by a major supplier of brand name household cleaning products for “soap scum” removal.
  • A sixth ingredient is used in hand creams and lotions, odorless paints and stain blockers.

Next, while the British may have banned Corexit there is an indication they’re outliers worldwide and may have fallen prey to Markey-esque demogoguery in their regulatory agencies:

  • Data published by Environment Canada, that country’s main environmental agency, in 1991 showed common household dish soap as having a substantially higher rainbow trout toxicity than COREXIT 9527. Put another way, COREXIT 9527 is more than 7 times safer than dish soap. COREXIT 9500 is the next generation of COREXIT products and features an improved formula.
  • Jackson said at the May 24 press briefing,”Our tracking indicates that the dispersants are breaking up the oil and speeding its biodegradation, with limited environmental impact at this time.”
  • According to Jackson, “We know that dispersants are less toxic than oil. We know that surface use of dispersants decreases the risk to shorelines and organisms at the surface when they are properly applied.”


  • A March, 1994, report created by France’s Institut National de L’Enviroenment Industriel et des Risques indicated that COREXIT 9500 largely biodegraded in 28 days. COREXIT oil dispersant was first applied to the Gulf oil slick on April 23.
  • At 840,000 gallons, the amount of dispersant in the region of the 3,850 square-mile slick represents an average concentration of about 30 parts per billion to the 10 meters of depth the dispersant will go — even without factoring in that a substantial portion of the product has already biodegraded.
  • By comparison, the EPA allows drinking water to contain non-biodegradable contaminants — including carcinogens and reproductive toxins — that exceed the level of biodegradable chemicals present in COREXIT in the Gulf.

As to the incidents with Corexit being blamed for those seven fishermen being hospitalized and the Vessels of Opportunity program being suspended, it might be that either the dispersant wasn’t used correctly or those guys wandered into an area they shouldn’t – if Corexit was even a factor in their getting sick:

  • COREXIT is meant to be used at sea — away from the shoreline and has been used in more than 30 countries, including Sweden, France, Australia, Norway and Canada. Aerial spraying of dispersant is not to take place within 2 miles of a boat or 3 miles of a shoreline. With 30-mile per hour winds, the maximum expected drift for the dispersant is 2,000 feet. Spraying of dispersant from boats should only be done with personal protective equipment. Mists of the dispersant will not stray far from the boat given the proximity of the spray to the surface of the water.

So that’s some information about Corexit. Is it nasty stuff? More or less. So is oil. But it’s been used for 20 years on oil slicks largely without incident in this country. There is no evidence it does more ecological harm than oil does, and it’s effective. Given the position of the same folks who have attempted to block the use of Corexit toward the need for an environmental assessment before pushing sand around to make sand berms in and around Louisiana’s barrier islands, should we really be listening to the Chicken Little mob in the midst of a major crisis?

Along similar lines, Gov. Jindal – who rumor has it was not initially invited to Obama’s photo shoot in Grand Isle and whose staff had to make a stink just so he could be there – had some rather sharp words following the President’s three-hour tour of the Louisiana coast:

“We spent much of our time with the President today discussing the importance of our sand-boom plan in the fight to protect our coast against the millions of gallons of oil that continue to hit our shores. Just yesterday, we visited the state-directed dredge at East Grande Terre near Grand Isle that we refocused to create sand-boom under our plan. On our own, we already took the dredging permit the state had control over and switched the project over to build sand booms as part of our coastal protection plan. This state-directed project at East Grande Terre is about a 2.5-mile project where work on our sand boom plan began last week. The Coast Guard told us yesterday – after weeks of reviewing our plan that they approved a single segment of just two miles to see if the sand boom works. This is another example of too little too late.

“We expressed this frustration to the President and he agreed that work on the first segment must begin immediately and that within two to three days they would review whether the sand-boom will stop oil and make a decision about whether or not they will force BP to pay for the other five segments of the plan the Army Corps of Engineers already approved.

“We know sand boom works, we have seen it work in Thunder Bayou and Elmer’s Island, but if the federal government needs to see it work, they need to do that quickly. We don’t want the federal government creating excuses for BP. This is BP’s oil spill. They are the responsible party but we need the federal government to hold them accountable and make them responsible. We are fighting to help protect our coast under this sand-boom plan, and as of today more than 107 miles of our coast have already been impacted by oil. We know this oil will continue to hit our coast again and again. We have to put multiple protection measures in place. We continue to ask federal officials to approve our entire sand-boom plan from the northern Chandeleurs to the Isle Dernieres chain. Our entire coast is important.

“Based on the new flow estimates announced yesterday, this spill now surpasses the 11 million gallons spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster and is nearly double the size of the Exxon Valdez spill. Experts say that somewhere between 17 and 39 million gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf. This is why we need to fight against this spill on every front we can. Let there be no mistake, we are in a fight to protect our way of life.”

5-28-10, 5:15 p.m. – Boy, this sure is a surprise…

Officials from Jefferson Parish claim BP bused 400 cleanup workers into Grand Isle on Friday in time for a visit from President Barack Obama.

Jefferson Parish Councilman John Young said the workers were brought in to clean oil off Grand Isle’s beaches.

The extra workers were brought in for Friday only, at a rate of $12 an hour, officials told WDSU. They were mostly from Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts called BP’s efforts “shameful.”

“The level of cleanup and cooperation from BP in the last week in no way compares to the effort shown on the island today,” Roberts said. “This is a total shame that a mockery has been made of this visit by the executives of BP.”

During a visit Friday to Louisiana, Obama toured a beach where tar balls are washing ashore and attended a briefing at a Coast Guard station in Grand Isle.

Oil has been washing ashore in Grand Isle for about a week.

We’re just floored. Can’t believe it. Shocked out of our minds.

Wanna know how this visit SHOULD have gone down? Here’s how. Obama should have flown into New Orleans LAST NIGHT, gone to dinner at one of the local restaurants and eaten SEAFOOD and stayed in one of the local HOTELS. This morning he should have gotten on a BOAT and gone out into the MARSH to see where the oil impacted the environment. Then he should have had his briefing with Thad Allen and whatever local bigshots he wanted to, upon which time he should have held a TOWN HALL somewhere like Venice or Port Sulphur or Yscloskey or Grand Isle and LISTENED to people, while trotting out HIS PEOPLE to assure the locals something would get done. After that, he should have given a speech announcing that he was now taking direction from local officials and directly supporting all their efforts with no further red tape – and that the federal government was going to pick up the tab and then bill BP.

Did any of those elements happen? No. Instead we got a photo op with dolphins in the background and an empty 15 minute speech. And a David Axelrod-style rent-a-mob/cleanup crew so that the President would have a clean beach to speak from, thus giving the impression that The One can make things better just by showing up – as if anybody believes that anymore.

We’re not disgusted by the fact that Obama is all show and no go. Most politicians are like that. What we’re disgusted by is that he even sucks at symbolism. George W. Bush was a mediocre president at best, but even he was able to hold a bullhorn and inspire people when he had to. What can this guy do except order SEIU goons around?

5-28-10, 4:30 p.m. – There really isn’t anything to say about the President’s voyage to Port Fourchon and Grand Isle today. It was a photo op. He stood on a beach, watched dolphins and picked up a tarball. He mumbled something about how important it is to stop the leak. He said “you’re not alone,” which led commenters to the Times-Picayune’s article about the visit to conclude “We are all alone.”

Nothing happened of any real value.

Certainly nothing that would offset the colossal damage the President did to Louisiana yesterday. Our friend Steve Maley, who blogs as “Vladimir” on, details the “man-made calamity” he says is about to hit the Gulf Coast…

That’s going to have a deep, sudden impact of the loss of 33,000 good-paying jobs across the Gulf South.

Not within months or even weeks, but starting immediately.
Each of these rigs has a contingent of workers similar to the Deepwater Horizon. There were roughly 125 on board, each worker working 14 days on, 14 off. That’s 250 directly employed on the rig. These workers live, not only in Louisiana, but in Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma, too.

Then there are the crew boats, supply boats, helicopters, survey boats, dock crews, and shore support for the rig. You can easily double the number of jobs in direct support.

A good many of the hands on board worked for service companies like Halliburton, Schlumberger, Oceaneering, and many, many other specialized suppliers. They keep large contingents of workers on call who may be shore-based, but whose jobs depend on the deepwater activity.

It’s not a stretch to say that 1,000 jobs depend on each deepwater rig directly. I’m not counting the indirect effect of these healthy salaries cascading through the economy. If the multiplier is 3, that’s 100,000 jobs.

The thing about deepwater rigs: many of them are owned by foreign-based companies (like Transocean). Rigs are mobile and can be moved to foreign markets. Once they leave it will be difficult to get them back.

So that’s 33 rigs which have gone up in smoke as a result of a dreadful and disastrous presidential policy. And from market indications there’s a good chance that’s just a drop in the well. has been tracking the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector index, which measures the stock prices of oilfield services companies like Baker Hughes, Cameron, Halliburton, Schlumberger and 10-12 others, and comparing it to the U.S. rig count, and finds a correlation – when the OSX takes a dump, the rig count usually follows. When the OSX starts climbing, the rig count comes back as well within a month or so.

And based on the current trend, in which the OSX has been getting pounded since the Macondo spill, Rigzone thinks the market might take 200 U.S. rigs offline.

So if you’re in the oil patch, you might be looking at having to work in some Islamic bunghole like Egypt or some far-out mosquito-infested zoo like Sierra Leone or East Timor – because there won’t be much work domestically.

And of course, when those oilfield services companies which don’t have a global reach like Schlumberger or Cameron do start shutting down because they’ve got no clients, that means you’re now going to see cities like Lafayette, Morgan City, Houma, Beaumont, Lake Charles and others along the Gulf Coast, whose economies are enormously dependent on the wealth which can be derived from servicing oil rigs, saddled with unemployment rates that look like Michigan’s.

So no – we don’t give a damn what Obama had to say on the beach in Grand Isle. He’s already said too much. Might as well get the hell out of here and go back to Chicago, since once it becomes clear the damage he’s done to our economy here in Louisiana we sure won’t see him come back to commiserate with his victims.

In the meantime, BP has suspended the top kill again, this time after a couple of junk shots into the Macondo well which were designed to fill in some of the cracks at the top of the blowout preventer that drilling mud has been shooting out of. They insist that the top kill is still working, but it’s going to be another 48 hours before they can pronounce it a success.

From what it sounds like, if BP had an inexhaustible supply of drilling mud they could do the top kill until the relief well is finished, because when they’re pumping mud into that hole they’re not getting much oil or gas out of it – and that’s a win all by itself. But when the mud-pumping stops the oil still flows up. Maybe not enough to release oil from the well, but if it’s pushing the mud out of the BOP that means the top kill hasn’t worked yet. You’ve got to get enough mud down that hole so your pressure equalizes the pressure of the oil coming up; from the looks of it the holes and cracks in the BOP are just letting too much pressure out of the top to get the mud far enough down.

It’s been described as an arm-wrestling match. Which is not a bad description. One wonders if there was a way to seal some of those cracks from outside the BOP.

5-28-10, 10:45 a.m. – Sen. Vitter did a segment on WWL in New Orleans this morning, indicating he’ll be joining the President when the royal retinue arrives in Grand Isle for its 10-20 minute briefing with Adm. Thad Allen and then making a speech.

Vitter is unlikely to get much face time with President Obama, so he’s going to have to make whatever he gets count. Based on the lather he’d already worked up this morning, that won’t be a problem…


5-28-10, 8:35 a.m. – BP says the bill for the spill to date is $930 million, which is obviously a drop in the bucket of what they’re going to put out before this is over. Estimates of $20 billion are starting to surface.

How much of that $20 billion would go toward building barrier islands along Louisiana’s coast is unknown. Channel 2 in Baton Rouge found a professor at LSU who gives a “yes, but” assessment of the barrier island plan along the lines of what the feds have said…

Here’s the thing; if the concern here is that by building the barrier islands you’re going to keep inlets from flushing out to sea and you’re going to mess with things like oxygenation, and so forth, you don’t have to keep them in place forever. This project is important so as to catch oil as it comes ashore; it’s a lot easier to clean oil off a sandy beach than a marsh. Certainly a stronger chain of barrier islands will do a lot of good for hurricane protection as well, but if the negative effects of having those islands are enough to outweigh the protection they offer, then by all means the state can chop holes in them where necessary.

It’s just not a good objection. It’s certainly not a good enough objection to halt a project which we know will be effective in keeping the oil out of the marshes. That’s just a dumb federal policy.

What else is a dumb federal policy is putting 33 deepwater rigs in the Gulf out of commission. That’s what our president did yesterday on the advice of Interior Secretary Ken “All Hat” Salazar. As a estimate, 33 rigs is about 4,000 people who are now out of work. And that doesn’t count the companies who service and supply those rigs, who are now out of work. And the folks who service and supply those companies, who now have to replace the business they just lost as a result. And on and on.

Punishing companies and people who didn’t cause the Deepwater Horizon explosion isn’t just stupid, it’s morally indefensible. Louisiana’s economy is taking enough of a hit from this spill as it is; giving us another kick to the crotch on top of it is a lot worse.

Obama is slated to show up here in Louisiana later today. He’s not likely to get a friendly reception.

5-27-10, 10:00 p.m. – The junk shot cometh. At least to some extent.

In our update at 6:00 tonight, we noted that it didn’t make all that much sense for BP to be cutting off the flow of drilling mud from the pumps with the explanation that they were wasting too much of it as it came out of the hole atop the blowout preventer. But after tonight’s presser with BP operations chief Doug Suttles and some new revelations, it’s making a lot more sense.

Upstream Online has the details

BP is preparing to begin adding bridging materials – junk – to try to divert more heavy drilling mud down the Macondo well in the US Gulf and kill the blowout.

The materials range from small “fibrous” pieces to large dense rubber balls, BP operations head Doug Suttles said Thursday during a press briefing from the incident command center in Louisiana.

The list contains some of the same items that would be used in a junk shot and all the items would help keep mud from escaping out leaks in the riser and force it down the well.

Suttles said the decision of how much and what types of bridging agents to use, as well as when to deploy them, would be left up to experts on the pumping boats.

Those experts will evaluate the pressures and conditions in the well to figure out the best time to add the debris.

BP could still use a junk shot to clog the blowout protector (BOP) in the well and divert more mud down the damaged wellbore.

The junk shot material is being stored in a subsea manifold and is ready if needed, Suttles said.

Part of the problem with the top kill is that the holes in the BOP are too large and allow too much pressure to vacate, and while the drilling mud is flowing it’s not quite viscous enough to hold properly down the well and equalize the pressure against the oil coming up the wellbore. By introducing all the junk, you up the ante and make it easier to force the mud down the hole.

A few other items of interest with respect to what’s going on at the well…

  • 15,000 barrels of mud have gone into that well, at flow speeds of as much as 70 barrels a minute.
  • They replenished their supplies of drilling mud and have 50,000 barrels on site right now.
  • BP’s investigation indicates that there’s a good possibility the cement slurry pumped into the well casing was contaminated by drilling mud and that’s why it failed.
  • In another day or so, they’ll make the decision whether to continue with the top kill or declare it a failure and move on to the next solution. That would be a “Lower Marine Riser Cap,” or LMRC. How this would work is that BP would shear off the lower marine riser package and make a nice, smooth pipe coming out of the BOP, then plop this cap down atop the stack, complete with a riser pipe of its own to collect oil with and hoses which would pump methanol down in order to keep hydrates from forming. They think they can do a lot better job of keeping sea water out of this contraption than they did with the collection domes, but it’s equipped with a defense against hydrates anyway. The LMRC option would be available on Monday if needed.

5-27-10, 9:30 p.m. – Gotta give a little credit to Joseph Cao, who tore up a Corps of Engineers bureaucrat in a hearing yesterday and helped move the Scofield Island approval along.

Via Inside Louisiana News…

The approval came nearly a week after Louisiana’s Congressional delegation sent a letter to the Corps and the Coast Guard urging quick approval of the berm construction plan submitted May 11th by Gov. Bobby Jindal, and one day after Cao confronted Corps of Engineers Deputy Assistant Secretary Terrence C. Salt on delays in making a decision.

In a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Cao questioned Salt about an environmental impact study the Corps said it had to do before acting. Cao asked: “Why are we spending time to do an environmental impact study when the oil threatens to destroy everything?”

Salt responded: “… I think the Corps is proceeding with its analysis on that and expects a decision…”

Cao interjected, “… but it seems to me that the longer we delay, even a day, two days, three days, can lead to very devastating effects, to the Gulf Coast region, to the marshes and to the estuaries. And how hard is it to make a decision with respect to allow the berms to be built or not… and I don’t know why it takes a week to make a decision. I can make one right now.”

There’s a lot we’re unhappy about where this spill is concerned, but the one thing we have to say is that Louisiana’s Congressional delegation has for the most part represented the state well. Even Mary Landrieu, who we have raked over the coals on a pretty constant basis since this site went live, has been pretty good. The exception, of course, is Charlie Melancon – who’s trying to put his constituents on psychiatrist couches and telling them the spill ain’t so bad.

That was yesterday. Today, Melancon was at one of the mushrooming number of Congressional hearings being conducted into the spill and lost it

There were five separate congressional hearings Thursday on the blowout of the BP well in the Gulf. At the House Energy Committee hearing in the afternoon, Melancon began a somber reading of his prepared statement.

He described flying over the spill — “the scale and the scope of this disaster is larger than one can imagine.” He described constituents “watching this slow-motion tragedy unfolding in front of them.”

“Our culture is threatened, our coastal economy is threatened, everything I know and love is at risk,” Melancon said, fighting back tears.

His voice trembling, Melancon continued, all eyes in the silent room upon him.

“Even though this marsh lies …” At this point he had to stop. He tried to push the microphone away. He placed his hand to his face. He took deep breaths, and as a colleague patted his arm for support, he finished his sentence. “… along coastal Louisiana, these are Americans wetlands.”

“Excuse me,” he said, “I just wish to submit for the record. Thank you.” Melancon then quickly left the hearing room.

We hate to pile on in the event that emotion was real, but how do you get from “we burn marsh every year” and “we’ve got a very small amount of marsh with oil in it” and “the spill is overplayed” to the final scene of Old Yeller? That whole deal smacks of “Hey Charlie, go squeeze a few and see if that’ll shut the Republicans up about the CNN debacle.”

Like we said, we’re sorry if we’ve got that wrong. It’s a hard wash, though.

5-27-10, 9:00 p.m. – And now for a little perspective on the oil spill – and its relationship to Katrina – from two voices who couldn’t be much further apart in orientation.

First, Yuval Levin writes in National Review that the oil spill is President Obama’s Katrina – but not in the way you think. Levin says it’s like Katrina in that it shows that there are things government isn’t going to be able to protect us from. And he says that’s actually a good thing…

We seem to think that given our modern powers, there ought to be no accidents and no natural disasters anymore, and when those happen we blame the people in charge. Well, call me crazy but I don’t want a government so powerful that it could move half a million people in mere hours in response to a hurricane, or would have such total control over every facet of every industry that the potential for industrial accidents would be entirely eliminated. Such power would come at enormous cost to a lot of things we care about.

We who live in the 21st century West have the least messy, least dangerous, least uncertain lives of any human beings in history. We should be very grateful for that, but we should not let our good fortune utterly distort our expectations of life, and we should not react with unrestrained indignant shock anytime the limitations of our power make themselves seen or the cold and harsh capriciousness of nature overcomes our defenses. We should expect a firm response from the institutions we have built to protect ourselves—science, technology, and modern government—but we cannot expect a perfect response. Not from Bush, and not from Obama.

Let’s hope the administration does a better job in response to this spill than it has so far, just as the Bush administration could certainly have done a better job in its response to Katrina. It’s clear they have made mistakes. But let’s not pretend that what we’re witnessing here is fundamentally a colossal failure of the federal government. There are plenty of those going on, but this isn’t one of them.

We’re not sure we agree with Levin that a colossal failure isn’t going on, though what we will say is the cockup at the federal level hasn’t come from improper regulation or inattention (though without question Obama’s optics are terrible). We think what’s at play is a series of awful decisions, some based on terribly misguided priorities (politics over governance). He does have a point, though, that it’s a real mistake to be depending on the government to make it all better.

Our second perspective is from a familiar name.

Former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who did not seek re-election after Hurricane Katrina, said Thursday that all levels of government federal, state and local have missed the mark in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.
“It was so predictable,” Blanco said. “Where was the oil going to go? It had no place to go but land. There definitely was a lack of response by all levels of government. That was the deja vu of Katrina.

“It would be nice to see all three levels of government dealing openly and honestly to solve the problem,” Blanco, 67, said. “Part of the problem is when the problem is this big, the temptation is to point out blame.”

Blanco said capping the spilling well is a “private-sector responsibility” and should be left in the hands of BP PLC, the oil industry and the complex technology that is involved. But the “real dysfunction” as Blanco called it has occurred in preparing for the oil to reach shore.

“All I hear is why isn’t BP sending more booms, why isn’t the federal government sending more booms. I say why isn’t the state getting more booms,” Blanco said. “In a crisis, I think you need to act and figure out the details later. It looks like they’re arguing over who’s going to pay for it and it’s paralyzed people at the state and local levels.”

Blanco said Jindal “cannot do it himself,” but could have taken additional steps, such as authorizing deficit spending to obtain any equipment needed. “Act and send them the bill and fight over it later,” she said.

The former governor also said an opportunity was lost by not using at least on an experimental basis on parts of the spill a swarm of new technologies that have been offered to BP to deal with the spill.

“They should have all been deployed,” Blanco said. “Anything that looked like it had half of chance should have been deployed.”

Should we comment on this? OK, we will. What on earth makes AP writer Alan Sayre think anybody wants to hear Blanco’s opinions on disaster relief?

5-27-10, 8:00 p.m. – Sen. David Vitter isn’t crazy about the “partial permit” on the barrier island plan, calling it a “thinly-veiled no.”

Meanwhile, among the lawsuits now in flight to BP’s doorstep is one filed by a bunch of New Orleans hotels who are more than a little disappointed in the revenue projections following the Gulf spill.

In a sign of mounting concern about the economic impact of the oil spill, several New Orleans hotels filed a class action suit in federal court this week against BP, saying that damage to the Louisiana seafood industry will tarnish the attractiveness of New Orleans as a tourism destination and could lead to lost profits.

Named plaintiffs include the Bourbon Orleans, Astor Crowne Plaza, Marriott Convention Center, Wyndham Riverfront, St. Louis, St. Ann Marie Antoinette and the Dauphine Orleans hotels, most of which are owned by investor groups led by Joe Jaeger, president of Mechanical Construction Co.

The hotels say they expect their earnings capacity to be damaged. “Plaintiffs and many members of the Proposed Class have invested significant time, money and other resources into branding, marketing and/or advertising the New Orleans metropolitan area as an attractive tourist destination for many reasons, including its reputation for plentiful, fresh seafood and/or, in particular, local seafood, Louisiana seafood, and/or seafood from the Gulf of Mexico,” the suit reads.

And BP is back pumping mud into the blowout preventer. We’ll see if this round will equalize the pressure in the well.

5-27-10, 6:00 p.m. – Apparently this isn’t really all that big a deal, assuming you (1) believe BP and (2) buy the idea that the feds have a clue what’s going on, but BP hasn’t been pumping mud into the Macondo well since midnight.

What’s showing up on that feed is mud that was pumped into the well between 1:00 p.m. yesterday and midnight. They’ve been refilling the supplies of mud from ships at the surface and doing some testing to make sure all the pressure of shooting the mud into the blowout preventer won’t pop leaks into it. BP says so far that’s not happening. They also say they’re going to pump some more mud into the well tonight. BP is also concerned that they were wasting drilling mud by continuing to shoot it into the BOP, which seems confusing. Clearly, the mud is coming out of the hole at the top of the BOP; the question is whether if the pumping is breaking the pressure barrier and stopping oil from coming out of the well why it’s not forcing more mud downhole and generating less flow from the top.

Adm. Thad Allen, the incident commander for the Macondo spill and the best buddy of Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, said earlier that everything’s fine and that “They’ve stopped the hydrocarbons from coming up.” Either he’s right and this is all part of the plan, or the people in charge of the federal part of this response are a whole lot less capable than everybody’s accusing BP of being.

We’ll stay optimistic for now. But the efforts closer to the coast are a disaster. Seven fishermen working in the Vessels Of Opportunity program got sick while laying boom and four had to be hospitalized; it’s not confirmed that Corexit is the culprit but that’s the suspicion, and as a result the whole program was at least temporarily shut down.

And then there’s this – it’s from Dylan Ratigan’s show on MSNBC, which is generally speaking Fruitcake Central, in which two oilfield experts allege that the spill atop the BOP is the “little” spill and there’s a massive spill coming up someplace else. As in the top of the riser as it connects to the sunken rig itself.

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We think it’s so implausible that BP didn’t survey the entire riser as it lay on the sea floor as to make a comedy out of all this, but we thought we’d include the video in the interests of full disclosure. If these two guys aren’t off their rockers then it would also show that the Coast Guard, NOAA and MMS haven’t the faintest clue what they’re doing and that BP is everything the unhinged Left claims they are. But they’re probably off their rockers. As is Ratigan.

5-27-10, 4:30 p.m. – Get ready to be infuriated, because the Coast Guard and the Corps of Engineers have now put out their response to the sand-dredging plan.

It’s pathetic. Just pathetic.

When President Obama said at his press conference today that Jindal had received partial approval for the plan to dredge sand and build barrier islands, what he didn’t say is that his administration has approved one project.

You read that correctly. One.

The project is a sand berm at Scofield Island, which is in Jefferson Parish east of Grand Isle. The Louisiana National Guard has already been working on that area, using sandbags dropped from Black Hawk helicopters. They’d like to dredge sand instead, since that’s a much more efficient way to do it, and Adm. Thad Allen of the Coast Guard, who is the embattled Incident Commander in charge of this spill, has given the go-ahead for that to happen and have BP pick up the tab.

But the Scofield Island thing is it. If Louisiana wants, the state can do another five projects it has put on the table – two east of the Mississippi and three others to the west – on its own dime.

“There are a lot of doubts whether this is a valid oil spill response technique, given the length of construction and so forth,” said Allen in making the announcement Thursday at Port Fourchon. “But we’re not averse to attempting this as a prototype.”

Jindal’s quote is a little more diplomatic than you might think based on all this, though it’s clear he’s red-hot about it.

“We’re glad they didn’t turn us down, but had we been given approval earlier, we could have built nearly 10 miles of barriers 6 feet high already,” Jindal said. “We want them to approve the entire plan because our entire coastline is important.”

Jindal said the state would not begin construction on the other five island sections approved by the corps without a guarantee of money from BP or the federal Oil Spill Response Trust Fund.

“This is BP’s mess and they should pay to clean it up,” Jindal said. “We’re calling on them to get Scofield built as quickly as possible to show the world that this works, and then make BP pay for the rest of the sections.”

A map of the coastline, complete with places where the oil has come ashore, can be found here. From that map, you can see that what’s being asked for is not a 200-mile sand berm – there are lots of barrier islands already in place and what this is about is closing passes between those islands in most cases. The entire proposal would cost $350 million and take six to nine months, but it’s not a continuous line. It’s a bunch of small projects which combine into one big proposal.

And it’s been delayed for most of a month by federal bureaucrats who now say they’ll only pay for one small part of the project. And the President just took credit for this.

Reminds us of this:

5-27-10, 2:30 p.m. – There’s a guy who works for BP and his name is Randy Prescott. He’s really unpopular right now, and not just because he works for BP.

Prescott, who is a company spokesman out of their Houston office, was talking to New Orleans-based blogger Karen Godbois of The Lens earlier this week. He was quoted as saying “Louisiana isn’t the only place that has shrimp.”

So, let that statement sink in.

Mad enough yet?

Except things aren’t as they seem to be.

You think BP, and regrettable statements, and you think of Tony Hayward. By now, the picture in your mind is probably that Randy Prescott is a foppy Brit who couldn’t care less about Louisiana and New Orleans.

But that’s not the real story. We’ll let Lord David, from the left-leaning Humid City blog out of New Orleans, take it from here:

I called Randy Prescott, who answered his phone on the third ring, with a voice as heavy as wet graveyard dirt.

“This is Randy Prescott,” he said, and then waited for the spew of filth, hate, blame and death threats that would no doubt follow.

None did.

I told him I had read that quote in the Lens, posted by Karen Gadbois, and did he really say that.

To my surprise, he answered, “Yes. Yes I did.”

Again, I encouraged him to speak, and asked him why on earth he would say such a thing.

In the course of the ensuing conversation, I learned that Randy Prescott is a former New Orleans resident, now living in Texas. He has just returned from a VOLUNTEER MISSION to the Gulf Coast, hoping to channel monies directly to local resident workers, assisting with clean-up. Whatever else he may or may not be, and whatever ‘volunteers’ for BP organization get paid, it takes a certain amount of balls and commitment to show up to talk to crowds here on behalf of ANYONE related to Big Oil.

Mister Prescott expressed deep sorrow at the events that led up this spill, the handling of it, and the environmental aftermath that must surely come. Consider this: He didn’t run the rig and says he didn’t have anything to do with the spill or cleanup, except to try to smooth the path for hiring and deploying local workers.

When I pressed him about the remark he made, he, naturally, regrets it.

He was also quite clear that his remarks were taken completely out of context, and were not, as Ms Gadbois post suggests, made in response “to those worried restaurateurs facing rising prices for shrimp and oysters.”

He claims that he was answering a question he believed was about whether or not it were safe to eat shrimp at Gulf Coat restaurants. He responded by saying that one must check with local officials to get the straight story there, and that “Louisiana isn’t the only place that has shrimp.”

The implication, in his mind, was that Mississippi, Alabama & Florida also must deal with this, and perhaps there are other, larger, problems facing us all, whoever the culprit.

Still, Mister Randy Prescott, representative of British Petroleum, admits he chose his words poorly.

Furthermore, he’s quite sure that he’ll not get another chance to clear this up, or explain himself, before being vilified in the press, underground or otherwise.

Just goes to show the level of hysteria out there and the potential folks can get things wrong. A week ago, the U.S. House of Representatives was entertaining an academic, Steve Wereley from Purdue, who was telling the American public that more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day were coming out of the Macondo well, and politicians were quoting him as though he wasn’t full of it. Today, the USGS releases a formal study saying the actual flow was between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels a day prior to the top kill. And of course Shepard Smith on Fox News proceeds to take that information and announce that “at least 19,000 barrels a day” are coming out of the well.


We’re disgusted with the federal response to this disaster, and particularly the refusal to permit the sand dredging and filling in of the barrier islands for three weeks prior to today’s piecemeal approval. We’re greatly unnerved by what looks like fatal negligence and corner-cutting on the part of BP’s company man on the Deepwater Horizon rig in advance of the disaster. But what makes us absolutely nuclear is the opportunism in the media and the political class whereby the emotions of the public are being played upon to advance an agenda and increase one’s own power. That is just plain unforgivable.

Randy Prescott’s name is going to be mud in his home city for a long time, and for no good reason. Gadbois has a bit of explaining to do.

5-27-10, 12:50 p.m. – The USGS now has an official estimate of the flow rate from the well. That estimate is between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels a day.

Which pretty much makes idiots out of the alarmists out there who have been saying this was an Exxon Valdez every four days.

At 19,000 barrels a day, the total volume of the spill – assuming the top kill has worked and it’s over – is 722,000 barrels or 30 million gallons of oil. At 12,000 barrels a day, the number is 456,000 barrels, or 19 million gallons.

That’s a lot of oil, and yes – this would be worse than the Valdez spill. But it also wouldn’t be one of the dozen worst spills we’ve seen…

12. The Torrey Canyon Oil Spill – March 18, 1967
Location: Scilly Isles, UK
Amount of Oil Spilled: 25 – 36 million gallons

The Torrey Canyon was one of the first big supertankers. It was also the source of one of the first major oil spills. Although the ship was originally built to carry 60,000 tons, it was enlarged to a 120,000 ton capacity. She was carrying this full capacity of oil when she struck a reef off the coast of Cornwall.

The spill created an oil slick measuring 270 square miles. It contaminated approximately 180 miles of coastland and killed over 15,000 sea birds and enormous numbers of aquatic animals before the spill was finally contained.

11. The Sea Star Oil Spill – December 19, 1972
Location: Gulf of Oman
Amount of Oil Spilled: 35.3 million gallons

The South Korean supertanker, Sea Star, collided with a Brazilian tanker, the Horta Barbosa off the coast of Oman

10. Odyssey Oil Spill – November 10, 1988
Location: off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada
Amount of Oil Spilled: 40.7 million gallons

This spill occurred approximately 700 nautical miles off the coast of Newfoundland.

9. M/T Haven Tanker Oil Spill – April 11, 1991
Location: Genoa, Italy
Amount of Oil Spilled: 45 million gallons

This oil tanker exploded and sank off the coast of Italy killing six people and leaking its remaining oil into the Mediterranean for 12 years after the sinking. The source of the explosion was alleged to be the poor state of repair the ship was in. Supposedly the Haven was scrapped after being hit by a missile during the Iran-Iraq War and then put back into operation.

8. ABT Summer Oil Spill – May 28, 1991
Location: approximately 700 nautical miles off the coast of Angola
Amount of Oil Spilled: 51-81 million gallons

This ship exploded off the coast of Angola creating an oil leak that discharged massive quantities of oil into the

7. Amoco Cadiz Oil Spill – March 16, 1978
Location: Portsall, France
Amount of Oil Spilled: 69 million gallons

One of the most notorious oil spills in history, the Amoco Cadiz was caught in a fierce winter storm that damaged its rudder. The ship put out a distress call that it was no longer able to maneuver. Several ships responded, but none were able to stop the massive ship from running aground. On March 17th, the gigantic supertanker broke in two sending all of its 69 million gallons of oil into the English Channel. The ship was later sunk by the French.

The wreck of the Amoco Cadiz is located HERE.

6. Castillo de Bellver Oil Spill – August 6, 1983
Location: Saldanha Bay, South Africa
Amount of Oil Spilled: 79 million gallons

The Castillo de Bellver caught fire approximately 70 miles north west of Cape Town, South Africa. The ship drifted before breaking in two 25 miles off the coast. The ships stern sank in deep water still carrying approximately 31 million gallons of oil. The bow section, was towed away and deliberately sunk.

To read more about the Castillo de Bellver Oil Spill, click HERE.

5. Nowruz Oil Field Spill – February 10 to September 18, 1983
Location: Persian Gulf, Iran
Amount of Oil Spilled: 80 million gallons

This spill was the result of a tanker collision with an oil platform. The platform tilted and was closed, but the weakened platform collapsed sending oil spewing into the Persian Gulf. Delays in getting the leak capped were caused by the ongoing Iran-Iraq War.

To read a detailed description of this oil leak and subsequent oil leaks in the Nowruz Oil Field, click HERE.

4. Kolva River Oil Spill – September 8, 1994
Location: Kolva River, Russia
Amount of Oil Spilled: 84 million gallons

A ruptured pipeline caused this enormous oil spill. The pipeline had been leaking for eight months, but the oil was contained by a dike. When the dike collapsed, it sent millions of gallons of oil into the Russian Arctic.

3. Atlantic Empress Oil Spill – July 19, 1979
Location: Off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago
Amount of Oil Spilled: 90 million gallons

This Greek oil tanker was caught in a tropical storm and collided with another ship, the Aegean Captain. The damaged ship continued to lose oil before finally sinking on August 3,

2. Ixtoc 1 Oil Spill – June 3, 1979 – March 23, 1980
Location: Bay of Campeche off Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico
Amount of Oil Spilled: 140 million gallons

This oil spill didn’t involve a tanker, but rather an offshore oil well. Pemex, a state-owned Mexican petroleum company was drilling an oil well when a blowout occurred. The oil ignited causing the drilling rig to collapse. Oil began gushing out of the well into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 10,000 to 30,000 barrels a day for almost an entire year beforeworkers were finally able to cap the well and stop the leak.

1. Arabian Gulf/Kuwait – January 19, 1991
Location: Persian Gulf, Kuwait
Amount of Oil Spilled: 380-520 million gallons

Ironically, the worst oil spill in human history wasn’t the result of an accident. During the Gulf War, Iraqi forces, attempting to thwart a potential landing of American soldiers, opened the valves at an offshore oil terminal and dumped oil from several tankers. The oil they released created a 4-inch thick oil slick that covered 4000 square miles. To put it in perspective, that’s enough oil to cover the entire state of Rhode Island one foot deep in oil.

5-27-10, 12:30 p.m. – President Obama is giving a press conference at present which we’re watching and seeking to digest, but he did say that the Corps of Engineers is giving partial approval to the sand-dredging plan. That might not make the local officials too happy with Obama.

But he did deny he knew whether Liz Birnbaum was fired from MMS or that she was leaving. Doesn’t appear the reporters in the press conference were too impressed with that assertion.

Meanwhile, we’ve got some video of Rep. Bill Cassidy tearing a new rear end on Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) for an asinine bill which would ban offshore oil drilling altogether. Garamendi says his goal is to do away with oil altogether. Why can’t we do away with Garamendi instead?

Even Obama says we need to drill offshore, though his actions don’t support the idea he really believes that. The worst thing about this oil spill from a political standpoint is that idiots like Garamendi have been given ammunition to call for the destruction of an entire industry.

5-27-10, 10:45 a.m. – The head of the Minerals Management Service just got fired, so the purge of that agency in the wake of the oil spill continues. But Liz Birnbaum isn’t some sloppy Bush/Cheney holdover; she came to MMS from the environmental litigation and advocacy movement and she’s a Harvard-trained lawyer who had spent a ton of time working for the House Natural Resources Committee.

We’re told that Birnbaum is out for a couple of reasons. First, she’s a convenient scapegoat. The Washington Post has a report from some Congressional hearings yesterday on the MMS and the Interior Department, which devolved into the realm of the ridiculous when Ken “All Hat” Salazar told Republican congressmen that the bought-off culture of the agency under the Bush administration had been ended (if you’re doing such a great friggin’ job, Kenny, then how come there were no friggin’ spills when the MMS inspectors were flying to Peach Bowls and looking at porn and now that you’ve fixed everything the Gulf is the friggin’ La Brea Tar Pits?), and from that article comes a recounting of this exchange:

The woman Obama brought in to run the MMS, Elizabeth Birnbaum, is a former congressional staffer who is free of oil industry taint. But she doesn’t exactly seem to be the type to enforce a cultural change at the agency. Her testimony to the committee, a couple of hours after Salazar’s, largely defended the MMS’s industry-friendly ways.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) asked whether, before the BP spill, the offshore oil rig’s “blowout preventer” was tested within two weeks of it actually blowing out.

“Uh, we believe that it was,” Birnbaum said. She explained that “blowout preventers are tested by the operator, not the MMS.”

“So if BP says, ‘We’ve tested it, take our word for it, it’s great,’ that’s what you do?” Gohmert asked.

“We observe some tests. We do not observe them all,” Birnbaum answered.

The second reason she’s out is that she’s got nothing to do. The MMS has basically been broken up into a permitting division and an enforcement division. The guess here is that the permitting division – which was the outfit from which the sex-and-booze scandal from the MMS’ Denver office emanated – won’t have much to do anymore, while the enforcement division is likely going to look like the Spanish Inquisition. Which may be warranted or it may not. But you can bet your bottom dollar that the new MMS enforcement people will have very little oil-industry background and a whole lot of environmental activism background.

5-27-10, 8:30 a.m.The Oil Drum is doing some great running updates on the top kill and how it’s working; last night they shared some interesting insights which are worth a look.

The thing to bear in mind if you’re watching the feed and seeing tons of stuff shoot out of the top of the BOP is that there’s only so much mud BP can shoot down the well and have it actually go down the hole. They’re not running a line down the hole; they’re using valves which are toward the top of the BOP, and as such most of the mud is shooting out of the spill area. That was planned for, and it’s neither an indication the top kill will work or that it will fail.

We’ll know the top kill is working when BP backs the pressure down and the flow decreases. This afternoon we’ll hopefully begin to see that. If the mud has plugged the well, the downward pressure will keep oil from flowing to the wellhead and create an equilibrium between what’s pushing down and what’s pushing up.

But the indications are that this is beginning to work. We’ve said before that President Obama is a lucky guy, and if the top kill works it’s more proof of that – just when the public is beginning to wise up to the fact that the federal government’s response to this is a joke somebody other than the federal government manages to stop the flow of the oil.

But later today, Obama will give a press conference at which he’s going to announce that he’s killing offshore leases in the Western Gulf and off Alaska and Virginia, thus destroying the bulk of the offshore exploration industry for the time being or at least driving jobs overseas. This is going to put thousands of Louisianians out of work after the state’s economy has already taken a hard kick to the crotch thanks to the oil spill. And worse, he was out in California yesterday telling people the spill proves we can’t keep using oil.

Obama pivoted off the current crisis to reinforce how dangerous the United States’ dependence on oil is and to press for energy and climate change legislation.

“We all know the price we pay as a country,” Obama said. “With the increased risks and increased costs, it gives you a sense of where we’re going. We’re not going got be able to sustain this kind of fossil fuel use. This planet can’t sustain it.”

In other words, he just wants to completely destroy us here in Louisiana. Just listen to Rep. Steve Scalise…

To date, we still don’t have an answer from the feds on sand dredging to rebuild the state’s barrier islands. The president can’t get his people to issue a simple permission to save the state’s coastline from the oil spill, but he’ll move like lightning to destroy a whole industry. What are we supposed to think about this?

5-26-10, 10:30 p.m. – So far, it looks like the top kill is working. BP hasn’t reported anything bad happening yet, and the live feed of the spill source shows that what’s coming out of the drill pipe at the Macondo well is definitely more drilling mud than oil – and that’s what it’s supposed to be at this point. As the volume of the mud jammed down into the well (they’ve pushed some 7,000 barrels in there so far, at rates as high as 65 barrels per minute, and they’ll have pumped in some 50,000 barrels or more by tomorrow night before they’ll know for sure whether this thing is going to work) increases and the pressure is gradually equalized, the flow itself should start to fall off. Maybe it’s us, but the flow shown in that feed at present does look like it’s a little less than it was yesterday.

So that’s definitely a positive. But the BP people have a pucker factor which is astronomical at this point, and that comes through loud and clear:

“It’s too early to know if it’s going to be successful,” BP operations head Doug Suttles said at 7 pm local time on Wednesday.

BP boss Tony Hayward had given the plan a 60% to 70% chance of success but Suttles declined to endorse those estimates.

“I think we just need to take the next 24 hours and see what the results are,” he said.

To get a full description of what’s going on with the top kill operation, the best tutorial is at The Oil Drum.

5-26-10, 6:05 p.m. – In Kenner, the Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service have been holding hearings on the spill – as seemingly every governmental agency there is has been doing – and in today’s testimony there were some interesting developments. Specifically, as it was discussed in 60 Minutes’ report on the explosion aboard the rig, there was a good bit of disagreement between BP people and Transocean people as to the procedure for shutting in the well and abandoning it so a production rig could come along later and start making BP money off the well. Specifically, BP’s people won the argument (as the operator of the well, they call the shots by rule) and in so doing made the call to pull the drilling mud out of the well and replace it with sea water prior to inserting a second concrete plug into the wellbore.

There is some question as to whether it matters, however, as BP has said pressure readings from the blowout preventer indicate the flow isn’t coming through the wellbore but rather the casing string; inserting a second plug into the wellbore wouldn’t have plugged up the casing string or stopped the flow. Still, the fact that the BP people and Transocean people weren’t on the same page on the day of the explosion is rather significant; it could explain some of the multiple errors which cascaded into the disaster we’ve got in front of us now.

Also at the MMS/USCG hearings, we find out something which doesn’t make much sense; the blowout preventer hadn’t been inspected since 2005. The Times-Picayune article doesn’t make clear how many wells that BOP had been installed on since 2005; the Macondo well definitely was not spudded that long ago.

Hey, how come Kevin Costner is the only Hollywood guy who seems to give a crap about the Gulf spill? Danny Glover and Sean Penn wouldn’t shut up about Haiti, and they were beating movie stars off of the Katrina thing with a stick. This time, other than the Gulf Aid concert a couple of weeks ago they’re nowhere to be found.

Which suggests that a lot of these people only care about disaster relief when it’s a chance to push leftism. If Kanye West can’t mug for a camera and accuse a Republican president of not caring about black people, he’s not interested. And since the majority of the folks most directly affected by the spill are white or Asian, the Hollywood Left couldn’t care less.

To include Sam Waterston and Robert Redford, whose contributions to help in this crisis so far have been to flap their gums about how we should end offshore drilling and destroy what’s left of Louisiana’s environment. If either one has cut a check to anyone or shown up to help clean up a beach, we sure haven’t heard about it.

All this is good information to know. Particularly in advance of the next time one of these airheads attempts to pontificate to us about how we should help out the victims of some Muslim jihad in the Sudan or persecuted lefties in some Southeast Asian suckhole. Sorry guys, we gave in the Gulf while you ignored us.

5-26-10, 4:00 p.m. – Yesterday we reported on Sen. David Vitter’s Facebook post which said that he had personally talked to President Obama and received a promise that the federal government would move on the sand-dredging plan – and that Obama’s people would get back to Vitter by close of business yesterday.

Well, it’s 24 hours later and so far Vitter hasn’t gotten anything back from the administration. In fact, the Senator’s latest Facebook communique (posted around noon) reads as follows:

Spoke with DHS Sec. Janet Napolitano last night as a follow up to my conversation with President Obama about the emergency barrier island plan. I stressed the inadequate federal response and that this federal foot-dragging has to stop. The administration can’t put everything on BP. She gave me the same old answer we’ve heard before, that the Coast Guard and Corps will have a decision made on barrier islands soon.

We say again – last week it took less than six hours between the time Ed Markey and Jarrod Nadler started making a stink about Corexit and the EPA attempting to direct BP not to use it. Markey and Nadler have no role whatsoever in Louisiana’s cleanup efforts on this spill. Their role is that they hold hearings. That’s it. Meanwhile, Bobby Jindal as Louisiana’s governor and David Vitter as a Senator from Louisiana have been asking for three weeks for the EPA/Coast Guard/Corps of Engineers/the White House to get the wheels moving on allowing him to dredge sand and rebuild barrier islands, and they’re getting the sound of crickets for a response.

It’s an outrage. And if you don’t believe us, believe St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro:

St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro, Jr. is asking people to lobby their federal representatives to push for quick approval of the barrier islands plan Gov. Bobby Jindal and some coastal elected officials say will help protect the state’s wetlands from the oil gushing from a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico.

“If anybody has friends or relatives outside of Louisiana tell them to call their delegates to push for the approval of the barrier island plan,” Taffaro said during a radio interview today, according to a St. Bernard Parish news release.

Might be a good idea for folks to follow Taffaro’s lead. Might be a good idea for Mary Landrieu, who could be the only Louisiana politician the Obama administration will give the time of day to, to follow Taffaro’s lead.

5-26-10, 1:45 p.m. – The top kill has gotten started, amid widespread reports including one emanating from inside the state capitol in Louisiana that it’s BP’s last chance before the Feds take over the control of this thing. You can see a live feed of the spill here, though it more or less looks the same as it did before the procedure got started. That’s not something to get alarmed about, as they expect its going to take several hours, and maybe up to two days, before they’ll be able to force enough drilling mud down into that hole to stop the oil from coming out of it. The plan is to blast 40 barrels of drilling mud per minute into the well, which will come to 57,000 barrels over the next 24 hours, in an effort to gum up the well.

Meanwhile, as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. David Vitter, as well as Rep. Steve Scalise and pretty much everybody else in the state’s leadership have continued howling at the federal government for its inability to sign off on an environmental assessment of the sand-dredge plan, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson had to cancel a planned trip to headline a Democrat fundraiser amid a mountain of controversy over her proposed appearance. The narrative which becomes increasingly apparent – namely that this administration can’t and won’t govern but will spend all its time playing politics and dividing the country against itself – is anything but dissolved given those events. The fact that Barack Obama had time to travel to San Francisco for a Barbara Boxer fundraiser yesterday but has only been to Louisiana once since this thing began over a month ago (he’s supposed to be here Friday, which at this late point is hardly going to help him) is pretty similar.

Another example? Tomorrow Obama will unveil tougher drilling regulations, which is a vapor-thin political ploy. If those regulations had been fully thought through prior to the spill, why didn’t the president propose them before? And if they hadn’t, then why on God’s green earth are federal bureaucrats dreaming up regulations when there is an emergency going on? They already sent “SWAT teams” to all the drilling rigs to do inspections; if that’s not sufficient to stop another rogue well before this one is put to bed what makes anyone think a new set of cost impositions on oil companies which have not had spills is going to improve the situation at the Macondo well?

But it’s an example of “doing something,” and the administration thinks it might be enough of a shiny object to show the 300 million rubes who live here to stop the increasing scrutiny of the government’s response. The polls for the president continue to plummet, which means they’re looking for some sort of “top kill” procedure for his leaking popularity.

5-26-10, Noon – This one’s amazing. Apparently, just a few minutes ago the Coast Guard gave approval for the “top kill.”

BP has been talking about the top kill for two solid weeks. We figured they already had the Coast Guard’s approval. They were supposed to get started with the thing at 6:00 this morning, and six hours later they get approval from the Coast Guard.

What if the top kill ends up working? That’s six hours of oil – something on the order of between 50,000 and 200,000 gallons of oil – needlessly put into the Gulf as a result of federal incompetence.

It’s amazing. Amazing. We’d be better off with no federal involvement in this spill at all.

In that last statement we obviously disagree with James Carville, but on the other hand he’s no more satisfied with the performance of the feds than we are…


Here’s a question which has been nagging at us since last night. Why is it that on Thursday Ed Markey was able, within the space of a couple of hours, to get the EPA to issue a communique calling on BP to stop using Corexit, and yet Bobby Jindal has been unable for over two weeks, despite having every single elected official in Louisiana behind him, to get an approval for the sand dredging? How incredibly fouled up is that?

5-26-10, 9:30 a.m. – Seems as though Charlie Melancon thinks his constituents are nuts. Who can blame him? They put Melancon into office, didn’t they?

In what looks like absolutely horrible politics, Melancon is crowing about asking the feds for more money for shrinks for his constituents.

“As you are aware, this area is currently suffering from its second disaster in less than five years—first from Hurricane Katrina and now due to the oil spill,” wrote Congressman Melancon. “Residents in the 3rd Congressional district are starting to display symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Congressman Melancon continued, “Adding to the seriousness of the situation is the lack of mental health services and providers available in this area. Any resources that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can immediately offer would be of great assistance.”

In his letter, Congressman Melancon reiterated that BP should be held responsible for all costs for the recovery, including the additional mental health care services for south Louisiana.

“While I am requesting your assistance, I believe that BP and other companies involved should ultimately bear the costs of organizing and providing these health care services. It is the companies’ responsibility and theirs alone in light of their negligence in this situation.”

Several observations here. First, we don’t want to make light of the emotional toll a major disaster every five years will do to people. People who need help should get help. Second, though, the atmospherics of your congressman telling the federal government that you as a constituent need shrinks and AA meetings are strikingly bad. Folks who can’t make a living fishing or doing other things along the coast because of the oil spill are a lot more interested in jobs than couch trips. Third, if as Melancon correctly notes BP needs to pick up the tab for this army of psychiatrists and social workers, why not send a letter to BP? And fourth, regardless of who he sends a letter to, why on earth would you put out a press release about it? Isn’t this something you would do on a behind-the-scenes basis?

Melancon defends his record of relatively meager legislative achievements as a Congressman by saying he’s a guy who gets things done behind the scenes. But when something so sensitive and private as mental health comes up he wants to try to put it in all the papers? If James Carville suggested this move he’s clearly past his prime.

It’s not like this is the first questionable move Melancon has made this week. Yesterday a full-blown kerfuffle blew up surrounding an appearance he made on CNN in which he sought to minimize the effect of the oil. CNN anchor Don Lemon conducted the interview with Melancon, which we’ll excerpt a transcript of below, and then subsequently had Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser on and asked him about Melancon’s comments – with the result that Nungesser was pretty miffed about it.

We mentioned that, and got an e-mail from Louisiana Democrat Party spokesman and Tea Party crasher Kevin Franck repeating a quote from our update yesterday that said “The state Republican Party is all over Melancon for having said the spill is overrated, which is not a surprise. As yet there’s no video of Melancon actually saying the spill is overplayed; we’re looking for some, but so far we haven’t found it” with the subject line “Keeping It Classy.” We didn’t quite understand that, so we assumed Franck was trying to accuse the state GOP of lying and e-mailed him back with a mention that on the CNN video with Nungesser it’s Lemon who brings up the issue of Melancon saying the spill is overplayed, not Nungesser or any other Republican.

This is what Franck sent back…

“Ha. I’m sure the La GOP loves having Nungesser out front.  In fact, we might just put out a press release calling on the Nungesser to clarify his remarks.”

Franck might not realize this, but lots of people like having Nungesser out front. He’s doing a pretty brisk business on YouTube with that interview did with him, and the word is the locals in Plaquemines Parish are glad to have him in that job. Ray Nagin, he’s not. It’s another example of how clueless the state’s Democrat apparatchiks are these days – assumedly those apparatchiks are the ones giving Melancon his advice.

By the way, we still haven’t found a YouTube of Melancon’s CNN appearance. But what we do have is a transcript. He doesn’t come off that badly, and we don’t really dispute anything he says, but it’s pretty clear he’s minimizing the effect of the spill.

LEMON: You know, for weeks now, oil has been ruining their businesses. Now people in Louisiana can see how it is doing the same to their beaches. They got a chance to vent today at a town hall where they also got answers about the response efforts. I want to bring in now Congressman Charlie Melancon from — he’s held a town hall today. Thank you for joining us by phone. I know that you’re very busy today. So, more than a month after this disaster began, what are the people in your district saying about this?

REP. CHARLIE MELANCON (D), LOUISIANA (by phone): Well, they’re very frustrated, scared, feeling of helplessness, I guess, because as discussed today, you can’t physically go out there and just shut it down yourself. So and, of course, a lot of the unknown about what bp will be responsible for and after Katrina went through similar situations around with people, misinformation that was out there, and erroneous information, and then just lack of information. So, that’s what we’re trying to accomplish today.

LEMON: And I think, there is frustration, you can say, I’m sure it’s going to start to turn into anger soon if it hasn’t already, so…

MELANCON: It has for some.

LEMON: For people — go ahead, finish your thought.

MELANCON: It has turned into anger in some areas and some people. Some people are close to that beyond concern with also some of the post traumatic stress, if you would, particularly in the New Orleans region. Those parishes, because of Katrina, they thought they had been through the worst and now all of a sudden, this may be worse than Katrina in terms of not everyone, but for elements of the community.

LEMON: They’re hearing different things from everyone and know one is really telling them what’s really going on. I’m sure that’s how they feel. And that can be very frustrating. You can see how it can turn to anger. Listen, I want to talk about some of that because people vented today. You had a whole lot of people, a whole lot of officials at the town hall today, you had the coast guard, you had EPA, you had state wildlife, what did they tell the people there?

MELANCON: Well, basically each agency — I gave each agency an opportunity to talk about the things that they were responsible for. Wildlife and fisheries, about the open and closings of the different seasons and the different sectors of the coastline for an oysters or shrimp or fish or for whatever it was. We had the epa folks that were there to talk about, of course, there were lot of questions about the dispersants and whether they’re doing more harm than good.

We had the BP people that were there to clarify what they were doing as far as the claims to those people that are out of work or hurting, being hurt by this, and how that is being handled, where it is being handled. The SBA was there.



LEMON: Here’s my question. You’re telling us what they addressed. But what did they say? Did they answer these people’s specific questions?

MELANCON: Yes, they did.

LEMON: Because I’m sure people had some specific questions about, OK, I have this oil, you know, right in my backyard. This is where I usually earn my living, when you going to stop it, why is it taking so long? What did they say to people?

MELANCON: Well, the only answer anybody could give on why is it taking so long or when is it going to occur is the good lord himself, who knows when he’s going to let that happen, or when these guys will achieve that. From a standpoint of what we’re trying to do, they talked about, right now, it is attempting to keep the oil dispersed in the Gulf of Mexico in the deeper waters away from the coastline, away from the shore, away from the marshes and estuaries. That’s the primary attempt of what they’re trying to do at this point in time in time. As we —

LEMON: They’re trying to — you said they’re trying to — they’re trying to keep it away. They’re trying to keep more of it away because it’s already reached that area. We’ve already seen dead animals. We’ve already heard that possibly, through the Associated Press, they may have to burn some of the wetlands area there or overflow the areas so that it can float away. That’s going to cause huge problems, especially in this recycling or recovery year when it comes to the oysters and the fish and all of that.

MELANCON: You know, you just gave a perfect example of not total correct information about what’s there. Yes, there is going to be — if it continues to get into the marshland, and right now, it is in a small sector of the marshland, at the mouth of Southwest Pass. It is not a major intrusion into the areas that we’re really concerned about. Cleaning the beaches are a lot easier. It is not good for Grand Isle to have it on their beaches because it hurts their economy. I just flew over. There aren’t a lot of people on the beaches. I see a lot of camps where there aren’t cars at, the isles and stuff. It tells me they’re suffering because of the oil on the beach.

And I’m not saying it is a good scenario. But what I’m saying is, what the — And I liken it to, say, a treatment for cancer. The chemo and the radiation sometimes are more detrimental to the patient. The cure sometimes is worse than the actual disease that you have. But in the end, if we clean it up, we can hopefully get the other things cleaned up too, which are lesser problems. If oil wasn’t a problem, we wouldn’t be worried about it. Dispersant may be a problem. There is (ph) questions about the best dispersants. Hopefully, they’re addressing all those.

LEMON: Congressman —

MELANCON: The main thing is to keep the oil out of the marshes and the wetlands as much as we can.

LEMON: I want to understand what you said there. there is incorrect information about it reaching the wetlands. How is that incorrect?

MELANCON: We burn marshes every year in the spring after the freezes. So burning marshes is not a new process.


LEMON: I understand that, but the question is that whether or not burning the marshes, is it necessary at this point? Would you have to burn marshes as much as you’re burning —


LEMON: Hang on, let me finish. Would you have to burn marshes as much as you’re burning them now if it were not for the oil? I get your point where you’re saying that maybe burning it or maybe doing whatever, you may just want to let it go, because of the dispersants and the burning may cause more of a problem. But I want to understand what is incorrect about the information that the A.P. is reporting about burning and torching the wetlands and flooding it? 

MELANCON: Well, you’re getting into speculation of what’s going to occur possibly in the future, of how you’re going to do it. We haven’t gotten to that. At this point, you have a small amount of land that has oil on it. and god help us if that’s all that happens, this is going — this will be a victory from keeping it from getting into the estuaries and the inland marshes. What I saw out there, in volumes of oil around the site, and what I’ve seen in the marsh area and in the beach area, so far it is a small amount. I couldn’t tell you what that amount is, but a very small amount.

They’re going to be doing — going for the kill shot, I understand, on Tuesday. I would think that if the Richter scale is hooked up, you will hear — it will be a vibration coming from south Louisiana, equal to what happened at the Super Bowl when the Saints won it. So we’re just praying that they shut that well down. Then that gives us the ability to focus on dispersing the oil, taking the oil out, booming the oil, burning the oil, and doing whatever we can to keep it out of those marshes and those wetlands. So —

LEMON: To keep more of it out of those marshes and wetlands.

MELANCON: To keep —

LEMON: And I want to get that straight. To keep more of it out of the marshes and wetlands.

MELANCON: To keep any of it out, if we can.


LEMON: Yes, to keep any. All right, I got you. I think I have your point.

MELANCON: We don’t like any of it.

LEMON: OK. Just want to make sure because it sounds like you’re saying it is not that bad, and I don’t want the viewers to think that’s —

MELANCON: Right now, what is being affected as far as wetland area is a small area right at the mouth of the river.


LEMON: Congressman, I think we all get that. I think we all get that. It is not completely overflowing with oil, but the concern is that it could be if this keeps gushing and there is not a fix. That’s the point we’re trying to get across here.

MELANCON: That’s correct. That’s correct.

LEMON: Thank you very much, Congressman. And keep us updated on your efforts.

MELANCON: Thank you, Don. Appreciate it.

LEMON: We appreciate it.

On another note, NOAA has now closed some 22 percent of the Federal waters in the Gulf to fishing.

NOAA has extended the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico to match the Louisiana state waters closure west of the current boundaries, and to incorporate an area reportedly with oil in the southwest. Closing fishing in these areas is a precautionary measure to ensure that seafood from the Gulf will remain safe for consumers.

The closed area now represents 54,096 square miles, which is slightly more than 22 percent of Gulf of Mexico federal waters. This leaves more than 77 percent of Gulf federal waters still available for fishing. The closure will be effective at 6:00 p.m. EDT. Details can be found at

BP, meanwhile, has identified seven areas of concern which may have contributed to the disaster. The seven are:

  • The cement that seals the reservoir from the well;
  • The casing system, which seals the well bore;
  • The pressure tests to confirm the well is sealed;
  • The execution of procedures to detect and control hydrocarbons in the well, including the use of the BOP;
  • The BOP Emergency Disconnect System, which can be activated by pushing a button at multiple locations on the rig;
  • The automatic closure of the BOP after its connection is lost with the rig; and
  • Features in the BOP to allow Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) to close the BOP and thereby seal the well at the seabed after a blow out.
  • On the pressure test issue, a company memo shared with Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak of the House Energy and Commerce Committee indicates a “crucial error” was made during preparations to remove drilling mud from the well and replace it with sea water…

    The BP investigator said that two hours before the explosion, as preparations were being made on the Transocean semi-submersible Deepwater Horizon to start negative pressure testing of the wellbore, the system gained 15 barrels of liquid rather than the five that were expected, indicating there may have been influx from the well.

    A cementer witness was quoted as saying. “The well continued to flow and spurted.”

    The investigator said the pressure test was then moved to the kill line, where a volume of fluid came out when the line was opened. It was then closed.

    At this time, pressure began to build in the system to 1400 pounds per square inch. The line was opened and pressure on the kill line was bled to 0 psi, while pressure on the drill pipe remained at 1400 psi.

    The BP investigator said this indicated a “fundamental mistake” may have been made here as this was an “indicator of a very large abnormality”.


    However, once the pressure was bled off, work continued as normal – the line was monitored and by 7.55pm the rig team were apparently satisfied the test had been successful and started displacing the remaining downhole fluids with seawater.

    The memo, released late yesterday, did not indicate who made decisions after the problem was found. BP and rig owner Transocean both had supervisors on the rig when it exploded.

    BP would not comment on the memo. It had earlier stressed the report is preliminary and further work was needed.

    However, a Transocean spokesman appeared to blame BP for the disaster, telling Reuters: “A well is constructed and completed the same way a house is built – at the direction of the owner and the architect. And in this case, that’s BP.”

    Details of events leading up to the blowout come as new information from the leaking well seems to confirm widely held suspicions within industry that problems with cementing played a key role in the 20 April blowout.

    The congressional memo said BP data showed that several problems were experienced with production equipment aboard the rig.

    Nearly five hours before the explosion, an unexpected loss of fluid was observed in the well’s riser pipe. That suggests “there were leaks in the annular preventer,” a rubber gasket in the blowout preventer (BOP), the memo said.

    Waxman and Stupak together lead the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s investigative subcommittee, which has reviewed over 105,000 pages of internal documents from BP, Transocean, cementing contractor Halliburton and BOP manufacturer Cameron.

    The memo said the BP investigation has also raised concerns about the maintenance history, modification, and inspection of the BOP.

    Officials from BP and Transocean are scheduled to testify before congressional panels tomorrow.

    The BP officials testified that unwanted flow in the well starting 51 minutes before the explosion. About 18 minutes before the explosion, abnormal pressure leaks of drilling mud were observed and the pump was shut down.

    “The data suggests that the crew may have attempted mechanical interventions at that point to control the pressure, but soon after, the flow out and pressure increased dramatically and the explosion took place,” the memo said.

    Apparently the top kill still hasn’t gotten started yet, despite the fact it was supposed to happen three hours ago. They’re still testing the blowout preventer, pumping drilling fluids through it to see what happens but not in amounts that would kill the well. That’s ongoing, and sometime either later today or maybe tomorrow this thing will begin in earnest.

    This isn’t the kind of news anybody in Louisiana is interested in hearing. While everybody wants this to work, it’s past time to put this thing in place and if it doesn’t work then move on to a junk shot, or a cap on the top of the BOP, or stabbing a new BOP on top of it. Or whatever. But the heat is going to increase and increase again until tangible progress is made.



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