"Who Can You Trust?" is an ongoing look at some of the main players in the gulf oil-spill disaster. We analyze the media appearances and public statements of those covering, controlling, and combating the spill to determine who's spinning for personal advantage, who's playing to the crowd, and who (or what) we can truly count on.
National Incident Commander
Continuing a hot streak of trustworthy authority, Allen and the Coast Guard have beefed up their authority over BP. Allen is demanding more answers about relief payments and a long-term plan for the oil that’s being collected from the containment cap. That he’s starting to think beyond the immediate is a good sign; that he’s making BP do so as well is even better
Now that tests confirm that the oil plumes undersea do in fact come from the Deepwater Horizon rig, she’s changed her spin slightly. Before, her main position seemed to be, “Hey, oil seepage happens every day, and we can’t say for certain where it’s from,” a position that granted BP a fair amount of cover. Now that the oil is confirmed to be from the spill, she’s equivocating less. While admitting that the oil is becoming more dilute as it spreads into the ocean, she said “that does not mean it’s unimportant—far from it. The total amount of oil out there is likely very large, and we have yet to understand the full impact of all that hydrocarbon on the gulf ecosystem.” She’s starting to sound more like an oceanographer than a bureaucrat, a welcome change (and one we’ll keep an eye on).
The Containment Cap
Oil Diversion Device
The cap is still apparently doing its job, and doing it well, collecting about 15,000 barrels of oil a day. If you’re listening to the official BP-backed estimate of how much oil is flowing into the gulf, that sounds like a lot: BP says that the well is spewing 19,000 barrels of oil a day or less, making the cap a very effective temporary measure. But according to scientists, the rate of flow could be from 19,000 barrels a day up to 43,000 barrels. The confusion goes back to earlier debates about how much oil was flowing from the well: BP offered a number scientists said was lowball, but officials repeatedly argued that everyone should focus on how to stop the flow rather than on how much oil was being released. As a result, it’s unclear just how much oil is going into the containment cap and how much is going into the ocean.
Checks From BP
Despite repeated claims from BP that it will honor all legitimate claims for damage done by the spill (though without real clarification of what “legitimate” means), the payment process has been less than reliable. Though the company has just agreed to expedite the payout process, so far BP has filed only 18,000 of 37,000 claims, and while they’ve already paid out more than $48 million, much of that is in $5,000 increments that fishermen and other workers say don’t begin to cover their losses. Many small businesses are getting only negligible amounts of the cash because BP hasn’t yet determined how to assess their losses, which are often less direct that those of individual fishermen. Thad Allen is demanding more clarity about filed claims, while Alabama has mobilized its National Guard to help with the process. Guardsmen are going door to door to collect applications and turn them over to BP.
It’s unfair to keep listing him here for his many ridiculous statements, since his bias is so obvious. But it is fun to point out more of his gaffes, so allow us one last dig. Considering how much we’re now learning about undersea oil, it’s a good time to look back to last week when Hayward said, “The oil is on the surface; there aren’t any plumes.” Hayward has consistently stuck to the “oil floats” defense, which—considering that his company supposedly knows more than the rest of us about the behavior of oil and that BP is responsible for its cleanup—is really very scary.