As oil edged toward the Louisiana coast, fears continued to grow that the leak from the seabed oil well could spiral out of control. One official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the oil flow could grow from the current estimate of 5,000 barrels a day to “an order of magnitude higher than that.”
BP officials said they did everything possible, and a review of the response suggests it may be too simplistic to place all the blame on the oil company. The federal government also had opportunities to move more quickly, but did not do so while it waited for a resolution to the spreading spill from BP, which was leasing the drilling rig that exploded in flames on April 20 and sank two days later. Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead.
BP officials, even after the oil leak was confirmed by using remote-controlled robots, expressed confidence that the leak was slow enough, and steps taken out in the Gulf of Mexico aggressive enough, that the oil would never reach the coast.
“Here you have the company that is responsible for the accident leading the response to the crisis,” said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. “There is a problem here, and the consequence is clear.”
But it is still the government, in this case the Coast Guard, that has the final say. A law passed a year after the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster makes the owner of a rig or vessel responsible for cleaning up a spill. But oversight of the cleanup is designated to the Coast Guard, with advice from other federal agencies.
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