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Page added on May 24, 2010

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BP’s Crimes And Obama’s Lack Of Leadership

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The first signs of active and organized public protest have come in the form of a candlelight vigil in New Orleans, marking the 30th day of the oil leak. Much like the leak stoppage and oil recovery efforts, as well as the wildlife protection and general disaster management efforts, the federal government was notable uninvolved.

After four weeks of misinformation and lack of cooperation, the Obama Administration has finally demanded daily reports of all efforts to deal with the disaster, as well as all information related to the disaster, from British Petroleum. A live streaming video of the volcanic plumes of crude oil was finally released by BP on Tuesday. BP’s earlier reports of 5000 barrels leaking per day were immediately called into question.

Steve Wereley, an Associate Professor of Engineering at Purdue University, testified to congress this past Wednesday that, based on the video of the oil leak, he estimated the well was spewing crude oil at 95,000 barrels, 4 million gallons, per day, into the Gulf of Mexico. After 31 days, this puts the current total of this leak in the neighborhood of 124 million gallons, 10 times the reported amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

British Petroleum’s reluctance to attempt, or share, any sort of accurate measurement was explained in a McClatchy News article by Marisa Taylor, Renee Schoof and Erika Bolstad.

BP, and the Obama administration, have said they don’t want to take the measurements for fear of interfering with efforts to stop the leaks. That decision, however, runs counter to BP’s own regional plan for dealing with offshore leaks. “In the event of a significant release of oil,” the 583-page plan says on Page 2, “an accurate estimation of the spill’s total volume . . . is essential in providing preliminary data to plan and initiate cleanup operations.”

Legal experts said that not having a credible official estimate of the leak’s size provides another benefit for BP: The amount of oil spilled is certain to be key evidence in the court battles that are likely to result from the disaster. The size of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, for example, was a significant factor that the jury considered when it assessed damages against Exxon.

“If they put off measuring, then it’s going to be a battle of dueling experts after the fact trying to extrapolate how much spilled after it has all sunk or has been carried away,” said Lloyd Benton Miller, one of the lead plaintiffs’ lawyers in the Exxon Valdez spill litigation. “The ability to measure how much oil was released will be impossible.”

“It’s always a bottom-line issue,” said Marilyn Heiman, a former Clinton administration Interior Department official who now heads the Arctic Program for the Pew Environment Group. “Any company wouldn’t have an interest in having this kind of measurement if they can help it.” read more here

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