Hard Questions for BP Over Cleanup Failures

The oil giant is falling far short

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A full 77 days after an offshore oil rig began gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP is facing tough questions over its cleanup efforts, which have fallen drastically short of its own predictions. With the oil now reaching as far as the shores of Texas, outrage at BP is escalating. Here are the reports of the oil company's cleanup failures, what it means, and who's responsible.

  • BP Massively Exaggerated Cleanup Ability The Washington Post's Kimberley Kindy reports, "In a March report that was not questioned by federal officials, BP said it had the capacity to skim and remove 491,721 barrels of oil each day in the event of a major spill. As of Monday, with about 2 million barrels released into the gulf, the skimming operations that were touted as key to preventing environmental disaster have averaged less than 900 barrels a day."
  • Reveals Our Failed Drilling Approval Process Reuters' Felix Salmon remarks, "BP only got the permits to start drilling at the Deepwater Horizon site in the first place because the Minerals Management Service believed their statement that they 'could recover 197 percent of the daily discharge from an uncontrolled blowout of 250,000 barrels per day' ... So far, it has managed to skim less than 900 barrels per day. ... In hindsight, it seems that any number over a few thousand barrels per day would clearly have been a massive overestimate. But of course the bigger the number submitted, the easier it was to get the necessary approvals. You can see why BP exaggerated so much, and why there would have been enormous incentives for its rivals to do likewise."
  • Proves We Need Less Government Regulation The Heritage Foundation's Rory Cooper gets contrarian, saying there are "many cases" in the BP cleanup where "the federal government should simply step out of the way." He writes, "Obama's cabinet, including the EPA, continues to let ridiculous regulations stand in the way of oil being removed from the water. Skimmers that discharge separated water containing less than 1% of oil residue are being met with bureaucracy."
  • Only Burning Has Worked, But Barely The Washington Independent's Annie Lowrey points out that BP has "burned off four times as much oil as it has skimmed from the ocean. All in all, BP is skimming 900 barrels a day, though the leak has pumped two million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico. And in other BP disaster news, the first tar balls have washed up on the Texas coast -- meaning that pollution from the Deepwater Horizon disaster has officially reached all five Gulf states."
  • Weather Complicated Cleanup Efforts The Los Angeles Times' Richard Fausset and Bob Drogin write, "The weather prevented skimming operations for the eighth consecutive day off the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Along the Louisiana coast, a storm system made landfall Monday afternoon, bringing thunderstorms and grounding skimming boats operating close to shore. More rough seas are likely later in the week, with a tropical system churning east of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico that may head north and strike eastern Texas and western Louisiana late Wednesday."
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