What Congress was told June 7 about the BP Gulf oil spill

McClatchy NewspapersJune 7, 2010 

This is an e-mail summary of a conference call held Monday afternoon with members of Congress, congressional staff members, and representatives of key government agencies to discuss the BP oil spill. It is posted with the spellings and grammar of the author.

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

Chris Mansour, DOI – Call Moderator Captain June Ryan, USCG

Subsurface: In the last 24 hr period 21,431 gallons of subsurface dispersant has been used. I’ll let Walter (MMS) discuss the ‘top hat’ procedure.

Surface: 125 gallons of dispersant was used on the surface and 5,855 barrels of oil/water mixture was skimmed. There were no in-situ burns due to the bad weather. An additional 31,000 ft of boom has been deployed for a total of 2.2 million feet.

Shoreline: They are still waiting for the analytical results for tar balls that have come ashore in Key West to determine if the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) incident is the source. Analytical results for the tar balls collected in Miami show they were not from the DWH incident.

Claims: To date 38,052 claims have been filed and BP has paid out more than $48 million for 18,000 claims. www.fedbizopts.com - CG has asked the website manager to add a short link for DWH ideas.

Cindy Taylor, DHS

FEMA’s External Affairs group is setting up DWH response and recovery team members to help limited English speaking communities and people with disabilities access BP’s claim system and other federal assistance programs. County liaison officers will be dispatched to facilitate community outreach efforts that are responsive to state and county governments. Two person teams will be set up for each affected county of parish. The teams should be in place within a week.

Walter Cruikshank, MMS

Containment: Volume measurements are made midnight to midnight; yesterday 23 mcf gas and more than 11,000 barrels came through the ‘Top Hat’ assembly. BP is currently working on another capture mechanism that will utilize the kill and choke lines to recover additional oil and gas from the damaged well. This probably won’t be operational until sometime next week. Relief Well #1 is at 13,917 ft; they are working on setting casing before making further progress on the well. Relief Well #2 there was a problem with two of the pods on the BOP. The BOP was pulled back up and is being tested again.

David Jarvis, NOAA

NOAA Near shore Trajectory: Winds are 10 to 15 knots from south to southwest; should reduce the threat to Dauphin and Chandelier Islands with increased impacts to South Pass and Timbalier Bay.

Offshore Trajectory: Narrow bands of oil SE and ESE of the main slick. Small slick entrained in a large clockwise Eddy Franklin that has pinched off from the main Loop Current. There is still a possibility that some oil/tar balls could get into the Loop current. These sheens should continue southward along the eastern edge of the eddy.

Fisheries: Modified the fisheries closure eastward reducing the area closed by 534 square miles a total of 78264 square miles, approximately 32% of the US EEC is closed. http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/deepwater_horizon_oil_spill.htm

NOAA Conference Call on their scientific research as it relates to the spill will be set up on Friday Members of Congress and staff.

David Hom, OMB and Craig Bennett, Director of the National Pollution Funds Center

OPA was passed after the Valdez spill and authorized the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund that is capitalized with a fee on every barrel of oil produced or imported into the U.S. The fund is currently around $1.5 billion. The Coast Guard (CG) has access to $50 million annually; under the law in a spill the CG can draw down another $100 million. To date the CG has used the $50 + $100 million in response to the DWH incident. The current statuses of the CGs obligations are $135 million for this event, to date they have spent $106 million and have about another $50 million that will carry them through another two weeks. Gave briefings to the appropriators last week, the balance in the fund is being drawn down we are encouraging Congress to pass the supplemental spending bill which has language authorizing the CG to draw dawn an additional $100 million. All this money will be paid back by the responsible parties (RP). The RP repays the trust fund not the spending account.

Questions

Kolar, Senator Wicker’s Office: Q. Asked for an update on the impacts to wildlife from the oil spill.

A. Chris Underwood reported heavier oiling on Grand Isle; up to 45 brown pelicans have been reported oiled - FWS personnel are trying to capture them. Impacted wildlife to date, 820 collected dead and alive for birds.

Katherine, Senator Session’s office: Q. What is the nature of the impacts to Alabama beaches; tar balls, sheen or heavy oil?

A. Dauphin island and other shores in Alabama primarily tar balls.

Liz, Congressman Bilirakis’ Office: Q. How much oil was recovered?

A. About 12 barrels of oil and water mix usually 20/80 oil/water on the surface sometimes 80/20. She meant how much was recovered from the ‘top hat’ – 11,000 barrels of oil and 23 mcf of gas.

James, Congressman Klein’s Office

Q. Follow-up if they’re recovering 11,000 barrels/day, will the previous estimate from 12,000 to 19,000 barrels/day be revised?

A. Chris Mansour -- Admiral Allen this morning said as they try to maximize the production they may redo the flow rate they may access the kill and choke lines on the BOP to collect more oil.

Edith Holliman, House Science Committee: Q. Is OSHA on the call today?

A. No.

Ben, Congressman Cassidy’s Office: Q. Jindal has made comments about BP reimbursements. Has anything been done to improve the reimbursement stuff? I think he’s (Jindal) has made statements and sent letters regarding BP reimbursing them for their expenses; has it been prioritized are they working on better transparency?

A. Don’t know what claims Louisiana has submitted to BP.

Congressman Bill Cassidy: Q. Regarding the President’s moratorium: is BP going to accept claims for lost revenue and employment from the oil field service companies?

A. I don’t have an answer will get back to you.

Q. Marina owners say they get normally make $70,000/day during this time of year but they’re only getting reimbursed at $5,000/day.

A. If they provide the correct documentation they should get full payment otherwise they get a partial payment until the appropriate documentation is received. For example the first week of the oil spill a hotel may not have tourists but they may be full with federal workers so there may not actually be a loss of income.

Q. Even if there are federal workers they might not be buying gas or paying dock fees.

A. Ultimately they should be reimbursed for those losses.

Q. The sheen is approximately 1 mm thick oil and is typically degraded by sunlight, microorganisms, etc – seeing a small portion of the slick in the eddy north of the loop current that could reattach to the Loop current and transported to the Atlantic as scattered tar balls. When the oil becomes weathered it forms tar balls. Do they have to wear suits to pick up tar balls?

A. Yes the highly toxic aspect of the oil is gone however the response teams have to wear hazmat suits.

Q. They can only work 20 minutes at a time in the hazmatt suits. What is the rational for making them wear these suits to pick up chemically inert material?

A. Will get back to you on that.

Tiffany, Congressman Miller’s Office: Q. FEMA two per county response teams; is Florida included – Santa Rosa and Ascandia Counties?

A. Yes, the Mobile command center covers the Panhandle of Florida. The teams are to inform communities and individuals impacted by the spill making sure they have access to the claims process not be processing or issuing claims will be done by BP.

Dave Whaley, House Natural Resources Committee: Q. Can you provide me with the total amount of dispersant that has been used at the surface and the subsurface, and how much oil has been recovered, and how much oil has been spilled?

A. Total amount dispersant used at the surface 779,294 gallons; 303,915 gallons in the subsurface; oil water mixture recovered through surface skimming 368,550 barrels and another 84,704 barrels consumed in in-situ burns. We don’t have a total for the amount of oil that has been spilled to date.

-End of Call-

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