Today in BP Oil Disaster: Day 59



We're approaching two months since the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion killed 11 of the men on board. Today, BP CEO Tony Hayward is in Washington, D.C. facing members of congress — all requesting honest, open answers and not prepared statements to their questions. Hayward is without counsel. He's representing himself, and he has one technical advisor with him to answer the more technology specific questions regarding the rig, the explosion, and the failed attempts to stop the leak, which is still pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons into the Gulf as I write this.

As Hayward began his opening statement, a protestor, her hands covered in black paint, erupted in the chambers, shouting, "You need to be charged with a crime! You need to go to jail!", adding Hayward should "got to hell." She was forcibly removed.

Hayward is taking a beating — Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., accuses him of "stone-walling" the committee and not taking responsibility for any of his companies actions. So far, he's right. "Anyone of us could do his job," says Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas.

  • As proceedings began, Rep. Joe Barton, Texas, called BP's $20 billion escrow fund for oil victims a "shakedown" and apologized to Hayward, saying he was  "ashamed at what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it's a tragedy." Barton, meet brick. Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., attacked Barton, saying, “It’s not a slush fund, not a shakedown. ... It was the government of the United States working to protect the most vulnerable citizens that we have in our country right now, the residents of the Gulf.”
  • BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg is sorry for his "small people" remark yesterday.

    "What I was trying to say -- that BP understands how deeply this affects the lives of people who live along the Gulf and depend on it for their livelihood -- will best be conveyed not by any words but by the work we do to put things right for the families and businesses who've been hurt," Svanberg said in a statement.

  • Here's your Daily Dead Wildlife Tally: 829 birds, 358 sea turtles, 44 mammals.
  • This sperm whale may not be on that tally yet, though (from Deepwater Horizon Response):

    On Tuesday, June 15, the NOAA Ship Pisces reported a dead sperm whale floating 77 miles due south of the Deepwater Horizon spill site. NOAA is currently in the process of conducting thorough testing to determine the circumstances surrounding the mammal’s death, as well as collect information about its life. This is the first dead whale reported since BP’s rig exploded on April 20. It was not found in oiled waters; however, its location of death is unknown.

    As soon as the whale was sighted, Pisces Field Party Chief Paul Felts called the marine mammal hotline to report the finding to the Wildlife Branch of the Unified Command and NOAA’s marine mammal experts.

    Based on the estimated size of the whale, scientists believe it is a sub-adult. Its condition suggests it may have been dead for between several days to more than a week. Although it was not found in oiled water, NOAA marine mammal experts are using hindcasting analysis to look into the location from which the whale carcass may have drifted.

    While it is impossible to confirm whether exposure to oil was the cause of death, NOAA is reviewing whether factors such as ship strikes and entanglement can be eliminated. Samples collected from this carcass will be stored under proper protocols and handed off when the Piscescomes to port on July 2, or possibly if another boat is sent to meet the Pisces. Full analysis of the samples will take several weeks.

  • More on those trampled eggs and habitats, in a release from Plaquemines Parish:

    The Plaquemines Parish Inland Waterways Strike Force recently discovered broken eggs and crushed chicks on Queen Bess Island. As you can see in the pictures, plastic bags containing snare boom were recklessly placed without consideration for the natural wildlife on the island.

    “The people BP sent out to clean up oil trampled the nesting grounds of Brown Pelicans and other birds. Pelicans just came off the endangered species list in November of last year. They already have the oil affecting their population during their reproduction time, now we have the so called clean up crews stomping eggs,” said (parish president Billy) Nungesser. “The lack of urgency and general disregard for Louisiana’s wetlands and wildlife is enough to make you sick.”

  • The Wall Street Journal tracks the government response to the disaster — and finds communication problems, confusion, disagreements, and other obstacles among all levels of government and agencies.

  • Something to watch after the hearing and coverage, from Edward James Olmos: The Short Film BP Doesn't Want You to See.

  • For some levity, here is a new suggestion for sealing the leak: Filling it with vuvuzelas.
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