Gulf oil disaster - As oil continues to spill into the Gulf, the government is looking for answers, and it will happen today in the form of a slew of hearings. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce will open shop on the bayou Monday morning, holding a hearing in Chalmette, Louisiana. The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a field hearing on "Local Impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill" near ground zero for the growing disaster. About the same time, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government's response manager to the oil spill disaster, will be in Washington briefing President Obama and the Cabinet on the administration's ongoing response to the incident.
[Updated at 3:42 p.m. ET] Here are the latest developments on the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, caused by¬†the April 20 explosion on the¬†Deepwater Horizon rig.¬†
BP had increased the amount of oil it funneled to the surface to about 441,000 gallons on Saturday, the company said Sunday. This was an increase from about 250,000 gallons on Friday.
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 barely any oil had appeared on the state's shores, but its tourist industry was nonetheless feeling the pinch because of "misperceptions."
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government's response manager to the Gulf oil disaster, said BP has made progress in capping the leak, but he¬†cautioned it was too early to call efforts a success.¬†
"We're making the right progress. I don't think anyone should be pleased as long as there's oil in the water," Allen said.¬†
BP Senior Vice President Bob Fryar¬†said Saturday that the oil company "was very pleased" with the progress the company has made funneling oil from an undersea cap up to a drilling ship. "That operation has gone extremely well," Fryar said.¬†
BP funneled about 250,000 gallons of oil in the first 24 hours from a cap installed on the ruptured Gulf of Mexico well to a drilling ship, the company said Saturday.¬†
After reviewing new images and data, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reopened more than 16,000 square miles of ocean along the Florida coast that was previously closed for fishing because of the oil spill. More than 13,000 square miles of that lie just west of the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas.¬†
But the federal agency also closed a 2,275-square mile area off the Florida Panhandle, extending the northern boundary just east of the western edge of Choctawhatchee¬†Bay. That means that 32 percent of the Gulf still remains off limits for fishing.¬†
Tar balls and tar patties have been found in Florida¬†on Pensacola Beach.¬†
President Obama said in his weekly address Saturday that the federal government was "prepared for the worst" in coping with the Gulf oil.¬†
He cited a series of statistics that illuminated the "largest response to an environmental disaster of this kind in the history of our country."¬†
- 17,500 National Guard troops authorized for deployment.¬†
- 20,000 people are currently working to protect waters and coastlines.¬†
- 1,900 vessels are in the Gulf assisting in the clean up.¬†
¬†- 4.3 million feet of boom deployed with another 2.9 million feet of boom available, enough to stretch over 1,300 miles.¬†
- 17 staging areas across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida to rapidly defend sensitive shorelines.¬†
Obama also reiterated his commitment to cleaning up the oil spill in his weekly address, recorded Friday when he visited Grand Isle, Louisiana.¬†
"What I told these men and women - and what I have said since the beginning of this disaster - is that I'm going to stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until they are made whole," the president said.¬†
The administration has tried to distance itself from oil company BP in recent days. The¬†Justice Department has launched criminal and civil investigations into the spill. But that has¬†not been enough to temper the frustration seething among coastline residents. BP officials¬†were grilled this weekend by¬†local leaders.¬†
Oil that has already affected Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama drifted steadily towards Florida.¬†
President Obama plans to personally offer his condolences to families who lost¬†relatives 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 cost of the federal response effort to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill totaled $93 million as of June 1, according to a Friday letter from Allen and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to congressional leadership. They are requesting that Congress approve a proposed provision that would make available up to an additional $100 million to the Coast Guard.
Snockey's Oyster & Crab House has been serving seafood to Philly residents for nearly a century.¬†The first restaurant opened¬†in 1912, just a few weeks after the sinking of the Titanic.¬†¬†
CNN's All Platform Journalist Sarah Hoye talked to Ken Snockey, the restaurant's third generation owner, about the impact of the Gulf oil disaster on his business:
CNN: How has the Gulf oil¬†disaster affected your business, so far?
KEN SNOCKEY, OWNER: We have definitely seen seafood prices go up. We're a 98-year-old oyster house. However, very rarely do we buy our oysters from the Gulf, we are more cold water oriented, and buy from the Chesapeake Bay and north. Shrimp come from the Gulf, and I'd say we've seen about a 25 percent jump in price. Crab meat comes from the Gulf.
CNN:¬† Since you are able to get seafood from other areas in the northeast, do you think you'll be able to avoid a bigger impact?
SNOCKEY: It's going to ripple, and we're well aware of that. I think it will affect everything that comes from the Gulf. It's a big world, but it's a small world now.
CNN:¬† Your family has been in the seafood restaurant business for the past century: do you know of any other disaster that compares to this?
SNOCKEY: I cannot pinpoint a particular catastrophe that affected the industry like this, but the seafood market and restaurants, is more volatile than most. One week you can buy a crate of broccoli for $25 and the next week its $65 because of a frost in Chile. Luckily, it is a big world today, they [shrimp, crab] come from so many destinations than ever before.
But it's a tragedy for those people in the Gulf: how are they supposed to make a living?
Signs in Lafourche Parish in southern Louisiana point to what‚Äôs weighing on folks living there.
Outside Larose‚Äôs Southern Sting Tattoo Parlor, the words ‚ÄúGod Help Us All‚ÄĚ are affixed to life-sized models of an adult wearing a gas mask and a child ‚Äď and fish ‚Äď dripping in oil.
Of the 33 oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico that have been slapped with a six-month moratorium, at least two are already on track to move abroad, an official in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, told CNN.
The contracts for these rigs are now void and that leaves the door open for these worldwide oil companies to take their drilling ‚Äď and the jobs these rigs fuel directly and indirectly ‚Äď elsewhere, said Chett Chiasson, executive director of the Greater Lafourche Port Commission.
Port Fourchon is a main service base for the gulf‚Äôs oil industry, and the suspension of the rigs ‚Äď all served by businesses operating from the port ‚Äď will be ‚Äúdevastating,‚ÄĚ the commission executive said.
Chiasson could not say which company or companies had already made plans to leave. Most likely they will head to waters outside Brazil or Nigeria, but he said information he‚Äôs been getting from the industry shows two have formed departure plans and several others are weighing options.
‚ÄúOil companies are in business to make money,‚ÄĚ Chiasson said. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre going to shop these rigs around.‚ÄĚ
[Updated at¬†10:16 p.m.] Here are the latest developments on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which began when the oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20:
-¬†BP¬†on Thursday night was¬†positioning¬†a cap over the top of the blowout preventer, which¬†may dramatically slow the oil leak.¬†Earlier Thursday, BP said it had reached an important milestone in its effort to cap the spill by cutting away the damaged riser pipe atop its ruptured undersea well.
- Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has asked BP for an additional $50 million to cover the costs of preparing to protect the state's coastline from the oil spill. BP granted $25 million to Florida last month. In a letter to the president of BP America, Crist writes that Florida already has spent $50 million in protective measures and other¬†preparedness costs.
[Updated at 1:57 p.m.] The president answers the last question from the media and ends the news conference.
[Updated at 1:56 p.m.] Obama says anyone looking for someone to take responsibility can look to him because it's his job to end the crisis. He said the situation "forces us all to do some soul-searching, and I think that's important for all of us to do."
[Updated at 1:51 p.m.] Asked about Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying the administration had its "boot" on BP's "neck," Obama responded that Salazar is "frustrated, angry and emotional," but that it's important to focus on actions not anger. FULL POST
BP has tried several methods to stop or contain the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, but 36 days after it began, all attempts by the company to cap the spill have failed.
So, what's happening today?
The company discussed¬† its latest attempt to contain the oil, a maneuver called a "top kill" that it plans to implement Wednesday.
Oil rig owner Transocean plans to hold a memorial service today to honor 11 workers who have been missing since the rig exploded.
Officials in Florida would like the world to know that the state's 663 beaches and the water that surrounds them are oil free.
A message that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist wants $34.75 million to spread. In a letter to BP, the company at the center of the oil spill problem in the Gulf of Mexico, Gov. Crist asks for the money to start a marketing campaign. This campaign would "counter the negative, widespread and false information potential visitors to Florida are receiving," a statement from the Governor's Press Office says.
It's not just Florida's $60 billion tourism industry that is being impacted by misperceptions about the location of the oil slick, Florida¬Ļs seafood industry is also feeling the effects.
Out-of-state retailers have decreased their orders for Florida seafood and charter boats are reporting a large number of cancellations.
"People seem to think our seafood is bad and our waters are contaminated, even though the oil spill is nowhere near our coast," says Liz Compton from Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
While Florida officials work on getting their message of an oil free state out to the public, crews continue to work around the clock to try and stop the leaking oil.
Gulf oil spill - BP has lowered a second oil containment box in an effort to stop a weeks-long oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil company said. A larger containment vessel was unsuccessful in stopping the flow of oil from the gusher about 5,000 feet underwater. The spill is sending 210,000 gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico each day.
Executives from BP, Transocean and Halliburton will be back in the hot seat Wednesday as¬†the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee questions them about the oil spill. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET.
Karzai visit - President Obama will welcome Afghan President Hamid Karzai to the White House on¬†Wednesday for a second day of partnership talks. Obama and Karzai have scheduled a joint news conference for 11:15 a.m. ET. Karzai plans to meet leaders in Congress on Wednesday afternoon.
As congressional hearings into the massive oil spill growing in the Gulf of Mexico begin this morning, the troubles in the water keep on going.
The undersea oil well, following a drilling rig's April 20 explosion 50 miles off Louisiana's coast, is spewing up to 210,000 gallons of light sweet crude a day into the Gulf, officials say, and so far there's no answer in sight on how to fix it.
So we'll try to break down a couple of things for you and share what we do know.
So where do things stand?
High court nominee:¬†¬†President Barack Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court on Monday, picking her to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. If confirmed, Kagan would be the third woman on the nine-justice bench and the fourth in the history of the high court. Her confirmation also would mean that the Supreme Court would have no Protestant justices for the first time in its history. Kagan, who is Jewish, would join six Catholic and two Jewish justices.
Dirty water: Plans to use a four-story containment dome to stop oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico have hit a snag. So what's next? Maybe a plan to try to plug the leak with trash, such as shredded tires.¬†A top BP executive said Monday that the company is working "parallel paths" to fix an oil well blowout that is dumping 210,000 gallons of crude a day¬†into the Gulf of Mexico.
[Updated 10:29 p.m.] The effort to place a massive containment dome over a gushing underwater wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico was dealt a setback when a large volume of hydrates - ice-like crystals formed when gas combines with water - accumulated inside the vessel, a BP official said
The dome was moved off to the side of the wellhead and is resting on the
seabed while crews work to overcome the challenge, a process expected to take at least two days, BP's chief operation officer Doug Suttles said.
[Updated 10:02 p.m.] A llama in north Texas is doing her part to help relief efforts by giving up the hair off her back, CNN affiliate WDSU reports.
Candycane's owner, Steve Berry, is donating her hair so it can be made into absorbent pads, or booms, to soak up oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Llamas don't have any oil in their hair," Berry, a retired Arlington firefighter and Hood County commissioner, told WDSU. "So not being oily it's a perfect absorbent."
Berry, a member of the South Central Llama Association, put out a call to other llama owners in the region, offering to give haircuts if need be, according to WDSU.
Each llama yields about four to five lbs. of wool, said Berry, who will ship it all the New Orleans, Louisiana.
[Updated 9:24 p.m.]¬†Tar balls ranging in size from dimes to golf balls were found Saturday on the beach on Dauphin Island, Alabama, the¬†Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center said.
Analysis of the tar balls¬†to determine the origin of the oil may take up to 48 hours, the center said in a press release. Tar balls are occasionally found on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, residents told CNN. The tar balls were collected in a pom-pom shaped material known as snare boom that were placed around Dauphin Island.
Reports of tarballs can be made to the U.S. Coast Guard at any time at 1-800-448-5816.
[Updated 7:09 p.m.]¬†By the numbers, to date, according to the¬†Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center:
– 10,000: Number of deployed personnel currently responding to protect shoreline and wildlife.
– 270: Vessels responding on site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels, to assist in containment and cleanup efforts, in addition to the dozens of aircraft, remotely operated vehicles, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.
– 923,000: Approximate amount¬†of boom in feet that have been deployed to contain the spill.
– 2.1 million: Gallons of an oil-water mix that have been recovered.
– 290,000: Gallons of dispersant have been deployed.
– 10: Staging areas set up to protect shoreline in Gulf Coast states that could be affected. The staging areas are in¬†Biloxi, Mississippi; Panama City, Florida; Pensacola, Florida; Pascagoula, Mississippi; Dauphin Island, Alabama; Port Sulphur, Louisiana; Shell Beach, Louisiana; Slidell, Louisiana; Port Fourchon, Louisiana and¬†Venice, Louisiana.
[Updated 5:38 p.m.] It was payday Saturday for some fishermen in Louisiana, but the check wasn't for what they pulled out of the water - it was for what they put into the water.
Parish officials handed out paychecks Saturday morning to fishermen who worked from May 1st to¬≠ 4th laying boom in the contaminated waters where they usually go fishing and shrimping. They were the first locals hired by BP, the company that owns the well at the heart of the oil spill, to help clean up the Gulf. With so many in the fishing industry affected by the oil spill, St. Bernard's Parish has set up a rotation system for those looking for work. The lucky ones will find their name on the work schedule again before the end of the month.
The amount of the check depended on one's position - a captain was paid more than a deck hand. An additional check was cut for those who used their boats. Fisherman Rafe Regan said he earned $460 a day working as a captain. He also said he received $500 a day for using his boat. That may sound like good money for a day's work but Regan says during oyster season he can earn as much as $3600 a day.
Fisherman Bobby Lovell said he earned just enough money to cover the cost of pulling his crab traps out of the water. The traps are in an area that is now off limits to fishing. Lovell is so worried about supporting his family that he plans to show up at the marina every day in case an extra person is needed. Lovell thinks he may have some luck getting a spot on a boat tomorrow. He says his wife may not be too pleased because it's Mother's Day, but according to Lovell that is why he wants to go - someone is bound to stay home, he believes.
[Update 3:58 p.m.] Read the full CNN.com story
[Posted 3:33 p.m.] The effort to place a containment dome over a gushing wellhead was dealt a setback when a large volume of hydrates - crystals formed when gas combines with water - accumulated inside of the vessel, BP's chief operating officer said Saturday.
[Updated at 6:23 p.m.]¬†Companies involved in the sinking of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon made "some very major mistakes," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday after meeting with executives from the oil company BP.
Salazar would not elaborate, telling reporters the cause remains under investigation. But, he said, "from my own preliminary observations, there were some very major mistakes that were made by the companies that were involved."
The Coast Guard and the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service are leading the investigation into the loss of the drill rig, which was owned by BP contractor Transocean Ltd. The rig sank two days after an explosion set it afire, unleashing an undersea gusher of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and leaving 11 workers presumed dead.
[Updated at 5:53 p.m.]¬† Authorities battled the Gulf of Mexico's massive oil spill with sweat, steel and fire Wednesday as patches of oil crept to within two miles of the Louisiana bayous.
Two specially equipped "burn rigs" set fire to patches of crude oil near the ruptured undersea well at the heart of the spill, a BP executive said Wednesday afternoon.
At the same time, a four-story containment vessel was loaded aboard a barge in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, en route to the well, the first step in an attempt to capture the leaking oil at an unprecedented depth.
And thousands of volunteers, wildlife officials, idled fishermen and National Guard troops mobilized to string floating booms along the beaches and across the mouths of estuaries leading toward the Gulf.
[Updated at 10:01 p.m.]¬†¬†BP chief executive Tony Hayward vowed that the oil giant would "absolutely be paying for the cleanup operation" of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.¬†
"Where legitimate claims are made, we will be good for them," he told NPR's "Morning Edition."¬†
The U.S. government was leaving little to chance. Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday that Justice Department employees were in the Gulf region "to ensure that BP is held liable."¬†
Allen said BP "is the responsible party" and "will bear all the costs" of the cleanup.¬†
Still, the promises failed to quell the fears. "I hope we can weather the storm," said Keith Delcambre, owner of seafood market Bozo's in Pascagoula, Mississippi¬†
[Updated at 9:56 p.m.] BP this week is going to attempt an unprecedented engineering feat to try and stop the oil spill, reports CNN's Brian Todd. It involves lowering a four-story metal container onto the leaking pipe to try to suck in the flowing oil.¬†
[Updated at 9:31 p.m.] CNN.com's Steve Almasy reports that¬†environmental scientists say the effects of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico could have ecological and biological consequences for years, if not decades.¬†
There are a lot of uncertainties right now about the Gulf oil spill. But one thing is clear: In addition to the intangible loss of wildlife, it's going to cost BP a lot of money.
Under current law an oil well's owner is responsible to foot the bill for the entire cost of clean up in the event of a disaster. In this case that includes BP and minority partners Anadarko¬†and Mitsui.
Clean up costs are currently running about $6 million a day, according to BP. Those include the cost of running the remote submarines that are trying to close the well, the drilling rig that's needed to permanently cap the well, and the boats corralling and removing the oil from the water.