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BP to retry spill ‘containment’

Latest attempt could take another week after the failure of ‘top kill’

- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 30, 2010

Unsuccessful in its latest bid to plug the oil leak off the Louisiana coast, BP on Sunday announced a new attempt to place a "containment cap" atop the gushing well one mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico.

Robert Dudley, managing director of BP, said Sunday on CNN that the new remedy, which could take up to seven more days to take effect, is not a sure thing, and wouldn't capture all the leaking oil even if it works.

But it remains the best course of action available, Mr. Dudley said, in the wake of Saturday's failure of "top kill," the attempt to plug the well with heavy mud.

"The oil is going to flow for a while," a glum-looking Mr. Dudley said on CNN's "State of the Union," adding that "we are going to redouble our efforts to make sure it is kept off the beaches."

"We failed to wrestle this beast to the ground," he said.

President Obama, in a statement released Saturday night from Chicago, where the Obamas are spending the Memorial Day holiday, said the "top kill" failure was "as enraging as it is heartbreaking."

Mr. Dudley said the company had learned lessons from an earlier failed attempt to place a containment cap - the lower marine riser package - over the well, when ice crystals clogged the device. This time, Mr. Dudley said, BP engineers will pump warm seawater down the pipe to prevent the icing problem while the cap is being attached.

The containment effort is a stopgap measure to buy time until August, when two relief wells are expected to come online and allow BP to shut down the blowout.

"If we can contain the flow of the well between now and August and keep it out of the ocean, that's also a good outcome," Mr. Dudley said "And then, if we can shut it off completely with a relief well, that's not a bad outcome, compared to where we are today."

On NBC's "Meet the Press," the administration's effort to get tough on BP continued, with Carol Browner, environmental adviser to the White House, saying the revised estimates of the oil flowing out of the blowout have made the leak "the biggest environmental disaster the country has ever faced."

The revised estimates have from 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day flowing from the well into the Gulf. There are 42 gallons in a barrel.

She said the Obama administration is prepared for the worst-case scenario, "which is [that] oil in the Gulf will be coming up in the marshes and on the beaches through August."

The administration's handling of the crisis came under fire again on Sunday from across the political spectrum.

Democratic strategist James Carville, a Louisiana native who criticized the White House last week as moving too slowly, said he was observing a "cease-fire" with the administration in the wake of Mr. Obama's visit late last week. But he did not back off his earlier comments, saying, "I said what I had to say. I thought it was necessary" and also told CNN the people of his state feel "abused."

"Our sediment has been dammed up on the northern Missouri River. Our levees were built shoddily. And our response to Katrina was not anything it should be. Everybody in Louisiana knows for a fact if this would have happened off of Nantucket [Mass.] or Palm Beach [Fla.], it would have been an entirely different reaction. And, you know, we've just had enough," he said.

On ABC's "This Week," former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a Republican who has been supportive of the president, said Mr. Obama reacted too slowly.

"The comprehensive speech he gave the other day, I think, would have been better served and the nation would have been better served if he had given it a few weeks earlier," Mr. Powell said.

Also on CNN, Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, said the White House needs to react more quickly to requests from local authorities fighting the spill on his state's coast, saying he is "not satisfied" with the federal government's response and "there has been failure, particularly with the effort to protect our coast and our marsh."

He cited in particular the federal government's failure to give his state the needed approval to protect its shoreline.

"That's a perfect example. The state and locals came up with a plan on emergency dredging barrier islands well over two weeks ago. For over two weeks, the [Army Corps of Engineers] and other federal agencies dragged their feet," he said.

He also suggested that BP offer hourly updates on repair and recovery efforts.

"I don't think they have been transparent enough, real-time enough," he said of the oil giant.

- This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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