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. Katey

    Why don't we know how much has been spilled? Just goes to show the attention that is being given by BP and the president's relief efforts.

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

    The problem is...NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO FIX IT. Every night I watch local news here in FL and feel sick as I listen to all the scientists and engineers who are trying to figure out a way to stop the leak and also hazard a guess on where the oil is going to flow next. Especially God Bless the ones who had nothing to do with the drilling or BP and are donating their time and expertise. Honestly, you people need to tune out the President and the BP execs and all the critics about shoulda, coulda, woulda....the important problem is trying to stop the ongoing spill and helping the gulf coast communities figure out ways to keep the oil from hitting our shores, and killing the wildife. Most of the Gulf coast areas are beautiful and still pretty much pristine. This is just such a shame.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  3. Wondering

    Why have we not ordered the shut down of all these wells in the gulf until BP can fix this one? Then we should require all companies to have a plan and a full safety review before we let them start again. Does anyone care? This problem is very, very, very bad for all the earth.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Jes

      Actually, Obama has ordered all of the wells to be shut down. Currently none of the deep sea wells (About 30 of them) are operational.

      June 9, 2010 at 5:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. meg

    i know that they are now "capturing" more oil – but didn't they cut the top off so there is now more oil flowing?? so are they really caputuring more oil, remember they made the situation worse last week with the saw – so in reality this may have made matters any better – has anyone thought of that??

    June 8, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. dina

    Mr. Barbour..Be honest.There may not be a lot of oil on the shores of Mississippi but lurking rightunder the surface is a lot of oil. How can you dismiss this? Are hyou in BPs pocket? Shame on you.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. clarkdes

    I don't believe a word anyone from BP says.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bobby

    It seems quite ridiculous that they would open an area to fishing because they didn't find oil in that area. Don't fish swim? Wouldn't it be obvious that fish will swim from one area to another, all the while becoming poisoned by the oily waters that they swim through. Just because they didn't find oil in an area doesn't mean that the wildlife has not been exposed. Very ridiculous

    June 8, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. AntiWar

    Government should not spent a penny from Taxpayer's Account. This was completely preventable disaster which should never be repeated even by mistake.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. AntiWar

    Government should not spend a penny from Taxpayer's Account. This was completely preventable disaster which should never be repeated even by mistake.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  10. Chip Pierce

    If you think it's bad now, wait until it's day 90.
    It's coming, folks.
    You can kiss the Gulf goodbye, for a generation, anyway.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • clarkdes

      sad but true.

      June 8, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  11. Raj

    Its very very sad to see those birds full of oil on them. I can't even stay for a minute with oil on my hands.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  12. Will

    Obama is entirely responsible for this spill. He is the last stop in the executive chain. He decides who is part of the executive branch, and last time I checked, MMS was part of the executive branch. Salazar should have fired the head of MMS when he found out that they were selling drugs to and riding the oil industry members. But he didn't. Guess who Salazar reports to? Obama. Guess who cleared offshore drilling and claimed it was safe not too long ago? Obama. He's a hack, always has been, and Democrats need to get over the hero worship.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Glen71

      Will is an idiot!!! Question for you, a natural disater is about to happen. A president is warned 7 days out, 3 days out, it happens and it takes him a week to do anything. Over 1,000 american citizens die!!!!! Which is worse and in control of a president to do anything about! Moron.

      June 8, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. AntiWar

    Can't take anymore. This should be Jail time for BP Executives. No one ever dare to make mistake like this.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      I agree. Some people should go to jail for this. I'm not a lawyer but crimminal negligence sounds like it would fit the bill, among other things I'm sure.

      June 8, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Patricia517

    Where are our heroes? Why isn't there an international armanda of a thousand ships in international waters scooping up this poison? Why aren't there tens of thousands working on helping the animals to survive?. Extinct is forever. Suppose this slick reaches the Galapogos islands, tiny islands off the coast of Ecuador. What if is hits tens of thousands of sea life on a migration path. Dead is dead. I can't understand why all they care about is suing BP..If any billionaire out there cares about wildlife come on buy some boats, get out there...Where is Virgin Records CEO? Where are the environmental groups? Where are the celebrities? if Kevin Costner has a technology to help, let him out there. This is the time for someone to try anything and everything to save the circle of life. There is no time to waste. Get out there. I am poor. I cannot help. Please someone care enough to get out there and help with the clean-up. The circle of life is breaking ...dead bird today, dead ocean tomorrow, dead planet in the near future.....

    June 8, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • sgfxd

      ...The Galapagos Islands are in the Pacific. The spill is in the Atlantic.

      June 8, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Randy

    Now, I'm a bit confused. At the beginning of this article CNN reports the Gulf oil spill/leak is the worst in U.S. history. However, CNN also has a link to a video from AC 360 saying that the oil spill of 1910 (California) is the worst in U.S. history. So which is it? 1910 or 2010? Of course, there are varying historical opinions, but most of what I have read still says that the 1910 spill was worse than the Gulf.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
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