Latest News

What Congress was told June 3 about the oil spill

The following is an e-mail synopsis of what members of Congress were told about the oil spill Thursday during a 3 p.m. conference call. All names and spellings are as the author wrote them. 3PM CALL REPORT OF NOTABLE ITEMS

RE: 3:00 pm Congressional Conference Call regarding Gulf of Mexico incident

Admiral Zumecom (?), USCG

Subsurface: The diamond cut was not effective. Drill pipe moving around in the riser caused the saw to bind. The shear ram was used to sever the pipe leavening a jagged edge. They are currently grinding down the rough edges and will install the ‘top hat’ devise later this afternoon or this evening. The ‘top hat’ will draw oil and gas into the riser to the ship where the oil will be stored and the gas flared. Subsea dispersants will be applied while the ‘top hat’ is being installed and to disperse any oil that is not captured by the ‘top hat’ once it is in place.

Dispersant: To date 245,975 gallons of dispersant have been used at the source of the leaking oil.


Barrier Islands: LA received approval for the construction of 6 berms; two off the Chandelier Islands, and 4 west of the Mississippi Delta. Admiral Allen met with BP to instruct them to pay for the construction of the barrier islands.

In-situ burns: Two burns were conducted yesterday. To date 84,000 barrels of oil, in 127 in-situ burns, have been consumed.

Boom: 2,009,750 million ft of boom and more than 2,192,430 ft of sorbent boom has been deployed.

Response: There are 23,000 response personnel, 65 aircraft and 1800 vessels involved in the response effort. Claims: To date 32,000 claims have been filed. BP has paid out $40,246,000.The CG has challenged BP to make sure claims are processed in a timely manner.

Solutions Group: The incident command has formed a ‘solutions group’ with the Coast Guard, NOAA, EPA and MMS to review suggestions and solutions made by constituents. The toll free number is (866) 448-5816. The turnaround time is 5 days to analyze the effectiveness of the suggested solution. This is different from BP’s link on their website. 7,600 suggestions have been received to date. They are looking at the super tanker suggestion if the top hat has to be removed in the event a hurricane comes through the area.

Skimming: 350,000 barrels of oil has been skimmed from the surface. Skimming is most effective in the open ocean closer to the spill area. It is less effective as you get close to the shore.

Walter Cruikshank, MMS

Briefly reiterated what the Admiral had to say about the riser and top hat procedure. Relief Well #1 is at 12,090 ft. They are not drilling currently but trouble shooting a problem on the control panel. Relief Well #2 at 1:30 pm the BOP went back in water once the BOP is in place drilling will resume most likely later tonight.

Dave Westerholm, NOAA

Chances of thunderstorms and winds near shore are still high but should decrease by 50% Friday and continue to decrease over the weekend. Winds remain from SW which will cause more impacts on MS-AL border area and the western edge of FL. No additional areas closed to fishing today.


Representative Gus Bilirakis:

Q. Got on the call late, can you restate the status of top hat maneuver?

A. We were unable to cut through with the saw, so the pipe was cut with the shear ram. They are currently grinding down the jagged edge of the cut and plan to put the containment devise on later today.

Q. Has DOI extended an additional ban in the Gulf?

A. No we will be putting out additional guidance to shallow water rigs on additional safety measures. if they aren’t in compliance they won’t be able to drill until they meet the new standards.

Q. Clarification regarding fishermen taking compensation for a claim that they will not be barred from future claims?

A. They can submit additional claims. If BP denies a claim they can resubmit for payment from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. The Coast Guard, who manages the fund, will seek reimbursement for the fund from BP or other responsible party.

Nita Holliman, Science committee:

Q. BP had their response people sign contracts with a gag order?

A. I’m not aware of any contracts of that nature that people were required to sign.

Q. Haven’t you been listening to the media, the stories are all over the media?

A. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Kolar, Senator Wicker’s Office:

Q. What is the nature of the berms being built? Doesn’t give distinction if in Mississippi or LA waters?

A. The permits were approved for LA so they are most likely in LA waters and not on the east side of the Chandelier Islands.

Q. Is there a depiction, is the information publically available?

A. Will have to get that info tomorrow.

Ben Gould, Rep. Cassidy’s Office:

Q. Because of how the pipe was cut they have to use a ‘top hat’ as opposed to a ‘top cap” device. What’s the oil capture rate difference between the two devices?

A. Don’t have that info will have to see how it goes down.

Q. Is the top cap completely out of the picture?

A. Will have to reevaluate as work continues.

Landrieu’s Office:

Q. How will the shallow water operators be notified to the proposed operational changes? Will it be an NPO (?) on shallow water changes?

A. They will be notified by NPO (?) early next week.

Senator Bill Nelson’s Office:

Q. 350,000 barrels of oil has been skimmed and 84,000 burned; what is you estimation of the percentage of leaked oil has been dealt with through skimming and burning?

A. For open-ocean skimming we estimate a recovery rate generally around 20%. In some areas of this spill 50% has been recovered. The amount of oil skimmed and recovered exceeds the amount spilled in the Exxon Valdez spill.

Question regarding Boom – office (?):A. More than 3 million feet of boom has been deployed. Working with Canada and Europe to bring in additional boom; the European boom needs to be modified before it can be used in the U.S. There is a 100,000 foot shortage in AL. LA and MS boom requirements have been met. Most likely the impacts to FL beaches will be tar balls. Because tar balls are generally suspended in the water column a boom strategy is not best solution. Recovery is not as challenging as LA. Also working with Norway on their advanced skimming technology; booms act as barrier so the oil can be skimmed on the open ocean or act as a barrier in an effort to keep oil away from the shoreline and other sensitive areas.

Sarah, Senator Bill Nelsons Office:

Q. Does this fisheries disaster declaration for FL mean additional resources will be available for FL?

A. Not unless FL actually is impacted, then they would have access to resources for seafood safety.

Senator Lautenberg’s Office:

Q. SG Welcome Smith research vessel has found underwater oil plumes ?

A. some research vessel have reported fluorescents in the water (oil fluoresces). The question - is it oil particles or some other phenomenon? Some samples have come back maybe in the next few days we will have that data analyzed. If it turns out to be oil we need to determine if it’s in PPM, PPB or PPT concentrations. If it’s oil it’s like a smoke plume. We’re trying to trace with vessels how far from well head the oil is and what percentage of hydrocarbons are in the water.

Q. It’s been reported that they are coin to like golf ball sizes?

A. We’re using acoustics, water samples and visible methodology. ROVs showing well head itself could see visible oil in the water column as you move farther away may be microscopic. Surface dispersants may force oil several feet down in water column.

Q. What about the use of microbes in powdered form to help break down the particles of oil?

A. I don’t have any info from unified command for bioremediation If it’s on the product list EPA can speak to that.

A. EPA - not on product list yet. There are a lot of materials coming in from vendors that are still being evaluated don’t have much data just claims of success.

Q. Do you have a visual depiction of where the vessels are deployed?

A. Deep water can send you updates.

Q. Don’t you have something that shows where the assets are laid down?

A. It has not been depicted – in military terms you’re describing Common Operating Picture (COP) -maybe we could make that available on a daily basis take at least a week have some communications limitations at headquarters.

Different Office:

Q. Are there daily updates made available? Can they be made available for the public?

A. Can’t post it on public access.

Senate Commerce Committee:

Q. Is the top hat the same that was on the sea floor or is it a new object? Is this the smaller containment dome has it been on the sea floor for a while?

A. Yes changes have been made to deal with the methane hydrates.

-End of Call-

Related stories from Sacramento Bee