Despite criticism, Adm. Thad Allen optimistic about cleanup

06/21/10 Kate Bradshaw
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With a permanent fix to the gusher at the Deepwater Horizon well still at least several weeks out, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen says BP may soon be able to capture as much as 53,000 barrels of crude every day. But unknowns like weather and the ever-increasing estimates of the volume of oil hemorrhaging from the sea bed are dampening BP and the Coast Guard’s message about their recovery effort.

First it was 1000 barrels. Then 5000, a number that increased six-fold last week. Since the explosion at Deepwater Horizon BP has had to regularly up its estimate of how much oil is really shooting up into the Gulf. Now that number’s even higher. In a conference call today, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen gave the latest.

60,000 barrels equals about 2.5 million gallons. According to the New York Times, that’s an Exxon Valdez every four days. But Allen didn’t mention Congress member Ed Markey’s release of an internal BP document that puts the spill at 100,000 barrels of oil per day, a number a BP spokesperson said was based on a hypothetical worst case scenario. That's more than 4 million gallons of oil per day and more oil than what BP had publicly acknowledged. But Allen said a new vessel BP is sending to capture the oil could spare the Gulf some of that.

Allen said BP will replace the current cap on the gushing well with one that’s more resistant to hurricanes and violent tides.

Last week, Plaquemines Parrish president Billy Nungesser criticized Allen’s handling of the oil cleanup effort after the Coast Guard grounded vacuum barges that were slated for the cleanup in this heavily-impacted region. Workers reportedly started using Shop Vacs to suck up the oil that’s washing into the area’s marshes. Allen said guard halted the operation of the barges due to a safety concern.

Allen further defended his role in the disaster response and said coordinating such a massive effort among government agencies, municipalities, and private companies isn’t easy, especially in Louisiana, a state with a unique system of governance.

McClatchy Newspapers reports that since June 2, the Minerals Management Service has approved at least five new offshore oil rigs, including two in depths of nearly 7,000 feet.

And in Florida today, Governor Charlie Crist introduced Commander Joe Boudrow as the state's deputy incident commander to help with mitigation and cleanup efforts. The governor also ordered another 80 skimmers to help with staving off the oil. Florida now has only 20 skimmers in place.

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