A BP Cover-up?

Posted: 08/07/2010 in articles, blogs, Conspiracy, environmental, truth

Written by Niamh Marnell | Monday, 24 May 2010

Last Thursday BP lost any credibility after they were forced to admit that their initial oil spill estimate was wrong. When independent experts came up with figures 10 times the BP estimate, several lawmakers accused BP Friday of purposefully covering up the extent of the spill.

BP’s chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, told reporters Friday, “We never said it produced 5,000 barrels a day. I am sorry you heard it that way.” But according to the Houston Chronicle, the figure was reported by media nationwide based on interviews with BP officials. BP did not challenge the figure until Friday when they said that they were siphoning off 5,000 barrels a day into a tanker on the surface yet the live video feed of the spill showed a significant amount of oil still gushing out into the sea.

BP has maintained all along that their priority is containing the spill, not getting an accurate estimate. According to NPR, BP spokesman Mark Proegler reiterated Thursday that BP had no idea how much oil and gas was escaping but noted that the measurement was not so important anyway. He said, “We’ve said from the beginning it’s difficult … if not impossible to measure it at the riser, but more importantly our response is not dependent on what that rate is. It’s really, we’re prepared for everything.”

BP and the Obama administration have also said that they want to avoid taking measurements in case it would interfere with the containment attempts. However, the Kansas City Star reported that the action is in conflict with BP’s own regional plan for handling offshore spills. The 583-Page plan details on Page 2 that “in the event of a significant release of oil, an accurate estimation of the spill’s total volume … is essential in providing preliminary data to plan and initiate cleanup operations.”

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) finds BP’s excuses lacking credibility. BP is planning to plug the top of the well, which requires an accurate measure of the pressure inside and that measurement is directly related to the amount of oil and gas spilling out. “It’s an absurd position that BP has taken that it’s not important for them to know how much oil is gushing out of this pipeline. Well, if they don’t know that, how are they going to plug it up?” said Waxman.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) also pointed out that BP couldn’t possibly use the correct amount of dispersants if they didn’t know how much oil was leaking. “If it’s 5,000 barrels, it’s going to be one level of dispersant that would be sent into the water,” Markey said. “If it’s 50,000 or 75,000 barrels per day, that’s yet another level, and increases dramatically the risk.”

Dr. Doug Inkley of The National Wildlife Federation told USA Today that he is exceptionally frustrated at the misinformation about the size of the oil spill particularly because an accurate assessment is so important in an appropriate cleanup response. He says, “BP has said that they can’t estimate the oil spill size. Come on, BP is an expert in using pipelines for transportation of oil. It doesn’t ring true that they can’t estimate it. There have been two independent scientific assessments by university professors of the oil spill. If Dr. Steve Wereley, professor of engineering at Purdue University, is right, and I have reason to believe he is, this spill is 10 times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill. This is potentially the largest environmental catastrophe this nation has faced in decades.”

According to NPR, using a well established scientific method of video analysis to calculate the flow of the biggest of the three leaks, Dr. Steve Wereley determined that it could be 10 times the initial estimate. Wereley then analyzed a second leak, which he reported to Capitol Hill on Wednesday. He said that the second leak alone appeared to be bigger than BP’s estimate of 5,000 barrels a day. His total estimate for the two leaks comes to 100,000 barrels a day, and he has yet to analyze the third leak.

A senior BP source told Telegraph.co.uk that the independent estimates by various scientists were “baseless” and that it was not possible for experts to determine the flow from looking at video footage. “It looks like someone has shaken up a can of coke down there. There is no visibility,” he said.

According to the Kansas City Star, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco, said that the 5,000 barrel estimate was based on visual observations on the surface, but as the spill grew and started to break up, that method was no longer useful. She told reporters Thursday that a team of government scientists had been assembled to try to better estimate the volume of the leak.

Meanwhile, independent scientists have publicly complained that they have the instruments and knowledge to determine the flow rate, but BP has not requested their help.

After BP agreed Thursday to allow posting of a live feed of the spill footage, McClatchy quoted Bob Cavnar, a Houston engineer who has been involved in oil and gas exploration and production, as saying, “I’m sitting here looking at it right now, and it ain’t 5,000 barrels a day. I’ll guarantee it. …In Houston, there’s about 125,000, 150,000 engineers. …And all the engineers can calculate what the flow is.”

National Wildlife Federation President Larry Schweiger called the disaster site a “crime scene” and accused BP of a cover-up. He proffered that “BP cannot be left in charge of assessing the damage or controlling the data from their spill. The public deserves sound science, not sound bites from BP’s CEO.”

The U.S. government doesn’t seem to be buying BP’s line either. Sen.  Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told CNN as she watched the BP footage of the spill, “It’s just not working.” She condemned a “cover-up” of the real size of the oil spill.

Markey also denounced the cover-up telling reporters, “BP has stonewalled on releasing the video for 23 days. … If you look at the video you can see plumes of oil spilling into the Gulf far in excess of 5,000 barrels per day. …It’s very clear that BP has not been telling the truth. …It’s obvious they are trying to limit information to protect their economic liability.”

Legal experts say that the low estimate of 5,000 barrels a day could save BP millions in damages when it comes to resolving the financial battle over the spill in court. The Kansas City Star reports that the amount of oil spilled will serve as key evidence in the court cases that are to come.

In the case of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, the jury did weigh the size of the spill as a significant factor in assessing damages. Llyod Benton Miller, one of the lead plaintiffs’ lawyers in the case of that spill, warned, “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. The ability to measure how much oil was released will be impossible.”

The National Incident Command Flow Rate Technical Group , the government-assembled team, is expected to have an initial estimate by early this week. FRTG includes Coast Guard, the Minerals Management Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States Geological Survey, and the Department of Energy. The group’s estimates will include the sources of data used, a description of the data quality, any assumptions made, and the names of the models used. The report will be posted at www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com.

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