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. Erik

    I tired of hearing the constant complaining aired all the time. The only people I see working are BP and the Coast Guard, and both are working around the clock. It was an accident, damage is going to occur, and checks are being written. Cleaning up is going on constantly, and will for a while. More airing of more complaing is a waste of time. Get out there and do something rather than complain.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Islandson

      We can't swim down there to heip stop the leak. And the answer for the clean-up is as many skimmers as we can find. Big and small Anywhere and everywhere. Not really something the "complainers" on this site have access to. You headin' down there Eric ? Please wave to the cameras when you do.

      June 8, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dan E.

    This fiasco could have resulted in some interesting legal resolutions, new judicial guidelines to determine the liability (criminal and financial) of companies who make such tremendous mistakes. Instead, we are seeing yet another excuse for a Federal Government power grab. The big question has now become,"To what extent should the Federal Government take over this industry?" Congress argues over only which aspects of the oil industry "the people" should seize. One gets so weary of this...

    June 8, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. Bennett

    Prevention is the answer.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  4. Will

    Poor birdy!!

    June 8, 2010 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • i care

      Poor world, poor animals, poor humans... This may be our demise.

      June 8, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mr.Fed Up

    Don't anybody out there believe for a second that this oil spill was a mistake! as we move closer to 2012 there will be more of these type of disasters.Only if people knew the real truth behind these so called disasters there would be total Outrage in this country!!!

    June 8, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Wyatt

      If it were intentional, it wouldn't have been BP's intention. As an industry, oil companies want things to go as smoothly as possible, justifying minimal regulations. Not to mention the liabilities they are facing.

      June 8, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Scott Free

    We will see the conservative corporate cloans on the supreme court side with BP years forward just like they did with exxon after the alaska spill. Punitive damages were diminished to almost nothing and the court's voting did so with the cloans falling into line. Sell outs.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  7. JimTee

    BP was never interested in permanently capping the oil well, nor are they concerned about the wildlife problems.
    If they did cap off the well, they would loose all the oil and the profits from that well. This is why BP stands for Big Profits.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  8. Joe

    This disaster has been at least 3 decades in making, tha last 10 years was critical. Our government has been weakened to the point it can't respond fast to this kind of catastrophies, doesn't have adequate resources and has been delegating most of supervising duties to corporations. The results are plainly obvious in the gulf right now.

    Think about it in November and ask yourself a question if you really want crazy people in Congress to further handicap our government. This is no joke folks this is you future!

    June 8, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. obviously

    BP is clearly trolling.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  10. MrSmith2U

    If anyone out there has followed this dilemna since day 1 – it should become quite clear that BP is not interested in capping this well. They are doing everything and anything to be able to keep the oil flowing to "capture" it for their profit. The solution is quite obvious, Mr. President – order BP to PLUG the f****** thing!

    June 8, 2010 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  11. Matt

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

    Who is buying him off? They can not close this one off, we (the US) have not been compinsated for this disaster, the clean up is years down the road, the federal oversight stil has not been fixed... Whatever drugs he is on please tell me, I could use some

    June 8, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  12. Emily

    http://blog.nola.com/oilspill/2010/06/oil_ordered_by_the_banks_to_re.html

    June 8, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. Federico Reinking

    This is my idea, why not drill two parallel shafts close enough to the main pipe 300 to 400 feet deep, then place at different but alternating depths (10 ,20 ft.) explosives so that when exploded they would compress the main pipe like an accordion.
    Several depths, and several charges to make this idea redundant. Also use different amounts of explosives to insure success. Anyway just an idea!

    June 8, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      explotions at that depth will just make it leak worst...dummy!!

      June 8, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. damiao

    http://www.englishtips-self-taught.blogspot.com help to spread this idea overseas...feel free for suggestions

    June 8, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. Joe

    The same people who blame Obama for the spill will be stalling all the legislation to oversee oil companies in the future. The sad thing is most americans are just too dumb to understand these tactics.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
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