Charles’ Sunday report described BP’s successful attempt to insert a mile long tube into the leaking pipe to siphon off more than 1000 barrels of oil per day.
BP said today that it is moving forward with a plan to plug the leak and could have the well sealed off by the end of this week. Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer for exploration and production, said BP are putting the finishing touches on the “top kill” effort that they hope to launch by this weekend. The plan calls for BP to pump heavy drilling fluid into the blowout preventer at the top of the well in an attempt to overcome the pressure of the rising oil. The fluid would then be followed by cement to seal off the well.
Suttles said that while a successful top kill would end the oil leak, it would not bring the overall recovery effort to a close. BP would continue to drill two relief wells in an effort to permanently prevent the well from being developed, and the cleanup and environmental remediation would continue.
You can view a map showing the location of the latest location of the oil plume here.
Bellona’s concern about the use of dispersants was highlighted by Frederic Hauge during his visit to the Gulf and in Charles Digges’ article. Reports over the weekend of massive oil plumes gathering beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico raised new questions on Capitol Hill today about whether the oil-dispersing chemicals BP has deployed at the site are exacerbating environmental problems. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) chairman of the House Energy and Environment subcommittee accused BP yesterday of “burying its head in the sand on these underwater threats” and called the plumes “hidden mushroom clouds that indicate a larger spill than originally thought and portend more dangerous long-term fallout for the Gulf of Mexico’s wildlife and economy.”
Today, Markey sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking more than two dozen questions about the dispersants and EPA’s oversight of their use. Among other things, Markey asks for a list of the still–secret chemical ingredients and how impacts on the environment were being measured.
“The release of thousands of gallons of chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico could be an unprecedented, large and aggressive experiment on our oceans,” Markey wrote. “The information regarding the chemical composition, efficacy and toxicity of the dispersants currently being used is scarce.”
BP has deployed 580,000 gallons of dispersant on the spill. On Saturday EPA approved BP’s plan to spray the chemicals more than a mile underwater onto the leak itself, saying it had proved effective at keeping oil from reaching the surface and spreading onto coastal beaches and wetlands and could lessen the overall impact of the spill. Local environmentalists have reacted skeptically.
“What we’re concerned with is where is all that going?” said Paul Orr, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper with the Waterkeeper Alliance. “They’re telling us not to worry but not really giving us much solid information to allay the fear.”
The oil spill remains front page news in the Washington Post.
Juliet Eilperin has also just published an article on Obama’s decision to appoint a commission to oversee the response to the spill.
On 12 May, Senators John Kerry (D-Mass) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn) released their long-awaited climate and energy legislation. Coming in at just under 1000 pages, the bill includes 12 titles covering a cross section of top US environmental and energy issues , from expanded use of nuclear power and carbon capture and sequestration to revenue sharing for states that want to conduct more offshore oil and gas production. It would also set the first ever mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions. . Both a summary of the bill and a 1,000 page download of it are available at Kerry’s website.
A few details. The legislation calls for a 17 percent cut in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2020; 42 percent by 2030; and 83 percent by 2050. Power plants will face the first restrictions, followed six years later by energy-intensive manufacturers. The Senate bill would provide less funding for adaptation. A small percentage of the greenhouse gas emission allowances under the proposed cap-and trade system would go to domestic wildlife and natural resource protection starting in 2019.
But the real issue is will it pass?
First, it all depends on the votes. There are 100 senators. 60 votes are needed to ensure passage of any legislation. According to interviews conducted by Greenwire, the current vote count is this; yes – 26; probably yes – 11; no – 22; probably no - 10; fence sitters – 31. So it will depend on how those in the middle decide to vote.
Second, opponents of the bill are saying that the bill is an energy tax in disguise. If their campaign succeeds, the public won’t buy it and their congressmen won’t vote for it.
Third, the Senate will adjourn at the end of July. There are only just over 40 legislative days left in the calendar and there is much for the senate to deal with apart from climate change legislation. There may simply not be enough time to get it done this year.
Fourth, the Gulf oil spill may have killed the climate change bill. In March, President Obama unveiled a plan for offshore drilling. This announcement was a concession to get the votes of some Republicans in order to improve the chances for the climate change bill in the Senate. But that olive branch has been retracted. In the face of the oil spill, President Obama has put a halt on offshore drilling and it will be some time before the ban is lifted. Now, the President isn’t living up to his side of the bargain. So given the limited days before the mid term elections in November and the strong opposition against a cap-and-trade system, the already low probability for passing climate change legislation has got lower.
Kerry and Lieberman are naturally optimistic about their bill’s chances. Others rate the chance of success at about 25 percent. Juliet Eilperin said last week that the bill had “long-shot chances for passage.”
Senator Mitch McConnell (R- Kentucky) and Minority Leader said last week that he and other republicans will oppose the legislation. “Whatever its intentions, this bill is little more than a job-killing national energy tax,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D- Nevada) has made it clear that the climate bill needs to be within striking distance of 60 votes before he will bring it to a vote. As of now, it falls well short of 60.