June 8th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

Day 50: 11 dead, unknown gallons of oil, no end in sight

[Updated at 5:51 p.m.] We've reached the milestone of Day 50 of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which has become the biggest one in U.S. history. The government's point man on the response says it could take until the fall for the underwater gusher to be capped, and years until the environment damaged by the disaster is restored.

While BP tries to continues to work on how to stop the oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, anger is growing over who is to blame.

BP has been met with harsh criticism for not being prepared for the worst-case scenario and for the amount of trouble it is having capping the leak. Take a look at all of the efforts they've tried, what BP hoped would happen and how it worked out.

The oil rig explosion killed 11 people and is now leading to an environmental disaster threatening the livelihoods of those in the fishing, seafood and tourism industries.

So now, advocacy group MoveOn is planning to hold nationwide vigils Tuesday night to call for stepped-up efforts to stop the spill. And people across the country have been protesting BP and complaining about the lack of coordination and attempts to really work to stop the damage.

BP and officials say they're trying their hardest, but they've encountered trouble along the way. The biggest problem? The sheer amount of oil and the difficulty in controlling where it is going, according to the government's point man, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen.

Now, in addition to fighting a battle in the Gulf, BP is also fighting a massive public relations battle.

First, it was a fake BP Twitter account that grabbed people's attention - one that mocked the company's efforts. Now the oil company seems to be trying to take matters into its own hands. CNNMoney.com reports the company is snapping up search phrases like "oil spill" and "oil spill claims" on Google and Yahoo. The strategy, says a company spokeswoman, aims to "assist those who are most impacted and help them find the right forms and the right people quickly and effectively." It also will help them control their message.

And these days it is all about the message those being held responsible are trying to send - and that includes the president and his administration.

President Obama, who has come under fire for not having the government step in sooner, defended his administration's response, telling an interviewer he has met with experts to learn "whose ass to kick."

Obama also had some tough words for BP - telling NBC's Matt Lauer - that he would have fired CEO Tony Hayward for downplaying the oil spill. Hayward said he "wanted his life back" and said the impact of the spill would likely be modest.

"He wouldn't be working for me after any of those statements," Obama told Lauer on the TODAY show.

Another flurry of  frustration with Obama centers on the Minerals Management Service, which oversees U.S. offshore drilling, including the Gulf of Mexico. The MMS has come under fire for mismanagement, questionable conduct and cozy relationships with industry officials. Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, during an appearance before the House Committee on Natural Resources, said he was trying to change the agency's culture and its structure, which some critics say leads to mismanagement.

Bobby Maxwell, a former Minerals Management Service auditor who spent 22 years with the Interior Department, tells CNN that he witnessed "inspections" on offshore oil rigs that were barely worth the name.

As this national story continues to develop, check out our full coverage page, and we'll continue to bring you the latest developments. Here's where we stand right now.

LATEST UPDATES

– President Obama will make another visit to the Gulf Coast next week to review efforts to contain and clean up the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the White House announces. 

– BP has provided new high-resolution video of the underwater gusher Tuesday after receiving a letter from Sens. Barbara Boxer and Bill Nelson imploring it to do so. Boxer and Nelson requested "full access to all video" related to the disaster to help independent experts determine the exact rate of oil flowing from the ruptured well. The latest minimum estimates have put the rate at between 12,000 and 25,000 barrels a day (500,000 to 1 million gallons), but scientists have complained about the quality of video used to determine those numbers, saying the amount could be much higher.
 
– BP CEO Tony Hayward has been asked to appear at a hearing June 17 before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
 
– BP announces that it will donate net revenues from the sale of oil skimmed off the water's surface to a new fund created to help restore wildlife affected by the environmental disaster.
 
– The Department of Interior issued new safety requirements for offshore
drilling Tuesday. The directive strengthens safety measures for drilling in
shallow waters as recommended by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a report to the Obama administration. Deepwater drilling operations remain under a six-month moratorium in the wake of the disaster.

In a letter to rig owner Transocean released Tuesday, Rep. Nick Rahall, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, raised concerns about staffing shortages aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig on the day of the explosion, citing daily drilling reports provided by the company.

"I have serious questions about whether enough people were working on the night of April 20 to adequately handle the complex operations that were being performed, of if crew fatigue caused by extended shifts may have played a role."

– BP said that as of Monday, it has paid nearly $49 million to individuals and businesses affected by the spill. The company said it expects to issue a second round of payments this month to cover anticipated lost income or profits, bringing the total it has paid to about $84 million.

– Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said he was frustrated with BP's reimbursement process, announcing that he will send National Guard troops and emergency management workers into affected communities to help residents prepare claims forms.

The latest Consolidated Fish and Wildlife Collection report says 380 oiled birds and 50 sea turtles have been rescued alive; 594 birds and 250 sea turtles have been found dead.

BP kept 621,000 gallons of oil from flowing into the Gulf of Mexico in the past 24 hours, said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government's response manager. He said the collection levels have "climbed steadily" since the containment cap became operational and they are expected to continue to grow in the next few weeks.

The brother of one of the 11 workers killed in the explosion on the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon blasted BP chief Tony Hayward on Tuesday. Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Christopher Jones highlighted Hayward's recent remark that he wants his "life back."  "Mr. Hayward, I want my brother's life back," Jones said.  "We will never get (his) life back."

– Initial water samples have confirmed low concentrations of subsea oil from the ruptured BP wellhead, said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "We suspected that but it's good to have confirmation," she said at a news conference Tuesday.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, called Tuesday for a sweeping overhaul of the nation's corporate liability laws in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, arguing that "no one's life should become an asterisk in somebody's cost-benefit analysis."

– BP has collected about about 1.8 million gallons of oil from the ruptured Gulf of Mexico well in the last four days, the company said Tuesday.

CLEANUP

– Workers in Louisiana have built about 2 miles of sand berms along the state's coast, Gov. Bobby Jindal said.

– BP Managing Director Bob Dudley said the company has agreed to pay $360 million toward the berm project, which is aimed at raising walls of sand along Louisiana barrier islands to catch the oncoming slick.

– BP says that it has closed one of four valves on the top of the cap and that the process is working well. The company says it may not close all four of the valves because engineers think the valves may be releasing more gas than oil.

– Federal authorities reopened about 340 square miles of federal waters off the Florida Panhandle east of Destin to fishing Monday after finding no sign of oil in that area, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration announced.

– The federal government has accepted Canada's offer of 3,000 meters - or more than 9,800 feet - of ocean boom to help combat the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a State Department spokesman said Monday. The boom is expected to arrive in the Gulf on Tuesday.

– The total amount of crude being collected from the ruptured undersea well responsible for the Gulf oil disaster increased Sunday to roughly 466,000 gallons, or 11,100 barrels, according to estimates from BP and Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government's response manager for the spill. On Saturday, BP indicated that it had increased the amount of crude being funneled to the surface to roughly 441,000 gallons.

– Since the containment cap was installed Friday, the total number of gallons of oil being captured on a daily basis has nearly doubled, Allen said at the White House on Monday.

– BP "anticipates moving another craft" to the well site shortly in order to raise the capacity of oil that could be captured on a daily basis to roughly 840,000 gallons, or 20,000 barrels, Allen said.

– In advance of approaching oil, Florida has about 250,000 feet of boom spread around the Panhandle and has another 250,000 feet available, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said.

– Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said that barely any oil had appeared on the state's shores but that its tourist industry was nonetheless feeling the pinch because of "misperceptions."

POLITICS

– Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, asked that the moratorium on deepwater drilling be lifted early.

– Allen briefed President Obama and the Cabinet on Monday on the administration's ongoing response to the incident.

– Obama plans to personally offer his condolences to families who lost loved ones in the rig explosion, said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. The president has invited the families of the 11 dead workers to the White House on Thursday.

–  The widows of two men killed aboard the offshore drill rig that sank in April, ripping open the undersea gusher, told members of Congress that more needs to be done to keep oil companies from putting profits ahead of safety.

soundoff (269 Responses)
  1. bev mont

    I wonder if there is enough oil under the sea bed to cover the entire ocean if oil spill can't be contained

    June 9, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • antillank

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      November 23, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Craig N. Barthelmas

    Subject: PRO-ACTIVE OIL SPILL CONTINGENCY PLAN, Dated: 1814, this is an oil spill contingency plan that has a proven extraction process. If British Petroleum’s hired goons stop authorized U.S. press from filming on American Soil just one more time, History may repeat its self!

    THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS, by Johnny Horton: In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip, we took a little bacon and we took a little beans, we caught the bloody British in a town in New Orleans

    We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin', there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago we fired once more and they begin to runnin', on down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

    We looked down the river and we see'd the British come, there must have been a hundred of'em, beatin' on the drums They stepped so high, and they made their bugles ring, we stood by our cotton bales, and didn't say a thing

    We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin', there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago we fired once more and they begin to runnin', on down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

    Old Hickory said we could take 'em by surprise if we didn't fire our muskets 'Till we looked 'em in the eye, we held our fire 'Till we see'd their faces well Then we opened up our squirrel guns And really gave 'em – well we

    Fired our guns and the British kept a-comin', there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago we fired once more and they begin to runnin', on down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

    Yeah, they ran through the briars And they ran through the brambles And they ran through the bushes Where the rabbit couldn't go They ran so fast That the hounds couldn't catch 'em On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

    We fired our cannon 'til the barrel melted down So we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round We filled his head with cannon balls, and powdered his behind And when we touched the powder off the gator lost his mind

    We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin', there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago we fired once more and they begin to runnin', on down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

    Yeah, they ran through the briars And they ran through the brambles And they ran through the bushes Where the rabbit couldn't go They ran so fast That hounds couldn't catch 'em On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. Go Johnny!

    We posted a PRO-ACTIVE OIL SPILL CONTINGENCY PLAN, Dated: 10 May 2010, this is a post oil spill contingency plan that has a proven Oil Spill extraction process and a patented Hydro-Carbon (emissions free) recycling technology.

    We’ve found a pre-processed material and developed an action plan that will extract up to 98% of oil spill contaminants from the surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It also includes contingencies for, re-processing all of the oil drenched materials back into re-usable fuels and commodities creating, long term renewable energy revenues for the community.

    We all know that BP has been feeding us misinformation and then trying to minimize their cost by denying problems exist. Yes! We sent BP and other agencies our plan. Operations of this nature have a price tag associated with them and so, it would appear that they have no wish to spend anything on an oil spill they can’t control or that won’t go back into their pockets. This cannot be allowed to go on any longer! We have four suggestions to remedy this situation.

    a. Executive orders from the president to keep BP within five miles of their oil rig to work on plugging their oil well.
    b. Executive orders from the president keeping BP completely out of the state containment and clean-up process.
    c. Executive orders from the president to keep BP paying for the affected business and state clean-up’s, on time.
    d. Find a way to approve pro-active plans rapidly and, for God’s sake, make decisions without first consulting BP.

    To date, BP has not plugged the well, contained the oil spill or even moved quickly to approve state contingency plans to keep oil off their shores. BP needs to plug their damned hole and pay the states for containment and clean-up operations.

    Thank you for your time and consideration. Sincerely, Craig N. Barthelmas ge1re22@aol.com

    June 10, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. melissa

    its plain for anyone to see a spark alone could Cause a much bigger disaster than we already have and the fourth of july is just around the corner. Tell me what do people do on the fourth of july ......FIREWORKS?????????

    June 13, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. vallan

    Top ten things that Obama COULD have done:
    10. Showed up before day 39. And when he did show up spend more time there than the round of golf he just played.
    9. Send a cabinet level official before day 10. No never mind, none of them are worth anything either.
    8. Deploy sensors to measure the actual flow rate before 2 months went by.
    7. Waive environmental approvals to allow LA to build berms to stop the oil BEFORE it got into the marshes.
    6. Take up the offers of help and equipment from Norway, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and other countries who have offered help.
    5. Paid claims using stimulus money so affected businesses didn't have to deal one by one with BP, then use the power of the government to get reimbursed.
    4. Deploy every oil skimmer in the country to the gulf, rather than wait for BP to do it. Bill BP.
    3. Stop the Coast Guard from harassing state and local responders who are taking the initiative to act on their own rather than wait for permission. Some have actually been threatened by the Coast Guard with arrest.
    2. Stop talking until he actually has something constructive to say.
    1. Apologize for showing America that someone is actually worse at crisis response than 'Bush '

    June 15, 2010 at 8:18 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Chris

    Safety ignored by BP= 11 Lives

    Oil spewing 40k barrels a day= Approx 33 Million

    20 Billion with a black man running the show= PRICELESS

    Yeah, it's okay to get mad GOP, we know you really love BIG BUSINESS and hate it when the 'small people' make noise and get paid (see: KATRINA) for their suffering. You have the nerve to apologize to the company but give the people the finger... We see you there telling lies and getting caught in them, so go ahead, be mad all the way to November where you'll just be: Gone...

    June 18, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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