With refreshing candor, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA 7th) said on Friday that "It's clear BP has been lying about what has been going on," McClatchy Newspapers reported. -- In another indication of growing displeasure with BP, the White House announced that the oil supermajor would have no member on the presidential commission named to investigate the Gulf Disaster. -- The Times of London said Saturday BP is now in "a desperate battle . . . to save its reputation in the United States, faced with growing accusations of a cover-up over the scale of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico." -- That CEO Tony Hayward decided to fly back to Britain to "celebrate his 54th birthday" will probably not add to his or his company's prestige. -- The Boston Herald reported that Rep. Markey laughed at Rand Paul's suggestion that harsh criticism of BP was "un-American." -- “I think Rand Paul is going to need a better line of argument if he’s going to win the general election” in Kentucky, said Markey. -- BACKGROUND: Ed Markey was elected to the House in 1976, when he was 30. -- He is the son of a milkman. -- In his early years in the house he actively opposed nuclear power plants, in the 1980s campaigned for the nuclear freeze, and is still active in nuclear policy. -- He became the chair of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in 2009 after having served as the chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. -- He has opposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge....
A MONTH AFTER OIL SPILL BEGAN, OBAMA BEGINS TAKING CHARGE
By Shashank Bengali, Renee Schoof, and Lesley Clark
May 21, 2010
WASHINGTON -- Facing a growing furor over the month-long Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the White House on Friday named two environmentalists to lead a presidential commission investigating the disaster.
The appointments of former Florida Democratic Sen. Bob Graham and William K. Reilly, who led the Environmental Protection Agency under President George H.W. Bush, came as the Obama administration tried to defend its handling of the spill against critics who charge that the oil giant BP has been dragging its feet in measuring how much oil the company's ruptured well is spewing.
A month after the spill began, the Obama administration also appeared to be distancing itself from BP, forming a task force this week to measure the spilled crude that includes an engineering professor who has told Congress that he thinks the spill is far larger than originally thought, but not a representative from BP.
Administration officials, who until now have stressed BP's preeminent role in cleanup efforts, offered no explanation for BP's exclusion from the panel, which a top Coast Guard official said was expected to deliver a new estimate of the spill's size early next week.
A Coast Guard spokesman, Christopher O'Neil, said BP would be a "welcome and needed contributor" to the task force by providing "reams of data" that the panel will need to estimate the flow rate.
The move to keep BP from being a full member of the task force may be intended to provide credibility for the new estimate after nearly two weeks of challenges to the company's official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day. Experts who have studied videos of the spill have pegged the amount at many times that.
The appointments of Graham and Reilly to head the presidential commission, which is expected to study in part the safety of offshore oil drilling, also tilted against the oil industry. The appointments were confirmed by an administration official who wasn't authorized to be quoted.
Graham, a longtime Florida senator who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, positioned himself during his campaign as an opponent of offshore drilling and frequently spoke about the need to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Reilly is a past president of the World Wildlife Fund and The Conservation Foundation. He also is a founding partner of a private equity fund, Aqua International Partners, which invests in water and renewable energy.
The White House's response came at the end of a week in which BP bowed to calls from scientists and members of Congress to release additional undersea video of the leaking well in order to determine how much oil was spilling into the Gulf. The company said for weeks that it was focused on stopping the leak, not measuring it, and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Friday rejected allegations that the administration allowed BP to drag its feet.
"We have pushed them to make things more public," Gibbs said. "There are laws that govern the proprietary information of companies. We can't change each and every one of those laws."
With oil starting to wash ashore in Louisiana and officials in five Gulf coast states worried about the impact on fisheries and tourism, Florida's congressional delegation, which helped lead the charge to get BP to release more video, pressed the administration in a letter to do more to determine how much oil is spewing beneath the water's surface.
"There is a significant surface oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, but we believe that the larger threat may be from oil suspended in the water column below the ocean's surface," the delegation wrote. "Unfortunately, it is much harder to observe subsurface oil. We do not know the dimensions, nature or movement of the threat."
The Obama administration organized a team of independent experts this week to study BP's footage and provide its own analysis "sometime next week," a Coast Guard official said. Scientists and members of Congress said the decision came too late.
In a briefing for the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee on Friday, Sylvia Earle, an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, called it "inconceivable that we do not have a good grip on how much oil is escaping" given the details available from the live video feed, such as the size of the opening and the speed of the oil gush.
McClatchy Newspapers reported Thursday that BP's resistance to taking measurements runs counter to the company's own regional plan for dealing with offshore leaks, which states that "an accurate estimation of the spill's total volume ... is essential in providing preliminary data to plan and initiate cleanup operations."
In addition, McClatchy Newspapers' report pointed out that the lack of precision in the gauging the size of the spill could save BP millions in later court action.
"It's clear BP has been lying about what has been going on," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. "I just think it's time to stop listening to BP and bring in real scientists to ensure we are dealing with the facts."
(Margaret Talev contributed to this article.)
U.S. & Americas news
BP STRUGGLES TO SALVAGE ITS REPUTATION OVER 'COVER-UP' OF OIL DISASTER
By Robin Pagnamenta and Jacqui Goddard
Times Online (London)
May 22, 2010
BP was mounting a desperate battle yesterday to save its reputation in the United States, faced with growing accusations of a cover-up over the scale of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
As Tony Hayward, the chief executive, flew back to Britain for the first time since the accident, to celebrate his 54th birthday, the oil giant finally caved in to US official pressure to disclose more information about the spill by making a live webcam of the leak available from deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico.
The webcam site later crashed, apparently because too many people were trying to view the link.
The decision to screen the pictures -- which show brown crude gushing from a broken pipe 5,000 feet beneath the surface -- followed direct pressure from the White House and anger that BP was restricting access to information about what was happening at the site of the leaking Macondo well. It also came after a second admission from the company that its current estimate of the size of the leak was too low. Ed Markey, a Democratic Congressman for Massachusetts, accused BP of lying.
“It’s very clear that they have not been telling the truth. It’s obvious they are trying to limit information to protect their economic liability,” he said.
In a letter sent to Mr. Hayward, Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security Secretary, and Lisa Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency, also accused BP of failing to keep the US public and Government informed. “Those efforts, to date, have fallen short in both their scope and effectiveness,” they said.
Originally BP had claimed that the well was leaking 42,000 gallons a day. This was later raised to 210,000 gallons, suggesting that six million gallons have spilt into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22. Now the company has admitted that the true figure is higher because it is siphoning off 210,000 gallons a day using a subsea collection pipe while the leak continues. Some scientists claim that it could be as high as 2.9 million gallons a day, raising fears that it may have already surpassed the Exxon Valdez spill, which disgorged 10.8 million gallons of crude onto the Alaskan coastline in 1989.
BP denied that it had misled the public and said that a team of scientists would offer an authoritative assessment of how big the spill was today.
Meanwhile, as more sticky crude began washing ashore in fragile swampland on the coast of Louisiana, wildlife officials warned of a potentially invisible, long-term disaster in the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem.
As calls mounted for the federal government to take a stronger lead, experts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spoke of the unseen ecological implications of oil and chemical dispersants on land and sea. “As these impacts spread through the system, they are only going to get worse,” said Dr. Ralph Morgenweck, senior science adviser at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “No one should believe that because we have not yet recovered thousands of oiled birds that the figures won’t be widespread. The effects are more subtle than just oil on the outside of an animal.”
Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer, said on "The Early Show," on CBS, that “there have been larger spills in the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico has survived. We’re going to do everything we can to minimize that impact. I’m very optimistic that the Gulf will fully recover.”
Doug Zimmer, for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the *Times*: “We have got unknown effects on the ecosystem and we won’t know what the effects are for many years, if ever.”
BP, whose shares fell 4 per cent yesterday, say they will not start until Tuesday an operation to stem the leak using mud and cement injected into the valve connecting the well to the seabed.
REP. ED MARKEY: BP'S LYING
By Jay Fitzgerald
May 22, 2010 (posted May 21)
U.S. Rep. Ed Markey must be “un-American” by Rand Paul’s standards.
Markey, a Malden Democrat, escalated his attacks on BP yesterday, accusing the British company of lying about the extent of the oil disaster now unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.
“They have absolutely not been telling the truth,” Markey told the *Herald*, repeating assertions he previously made on national TV yesterday morning. “This (Gulf incident) is far exceeding the Exxon Valdez disaster.”
Scientists now believe the massive oil-well leak in the gulf is actually pumping 50,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil a day into the ocean waters, not 5,000 barrels as BP has claimed, Markey said.
Mark Salt, a BP spokesman, would only say yesterday that BP’s original projections were based on government estimates and it’s now analyzing information to determine the actual size of the spill.
The debate over the oil spill escalated on a number of other fronts yesterday.
Rand Paul, the surprise winner of this week’s GOP Senate primary in Kentucky, said President Barack Obama’s handling of the Gulf spill was anti-business and “really un-American.”
“What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,’” Paul said, referring to previous “boot heel” remarks by the administration about keeping pressure on BP.
“I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business,” said Paul.
Markey laughed when asked if he thought his even more harsh criticism of BP was un-American.
“I think Rand Paul is going to need a better line of argument if he’s going to win the general election” in Kentucky, said Markey.
Markey, head of the House Subcommittee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, has been sparring all week with BP, holding public hearings and briefings on the oil spill.
On Thursday, he put on his committee’s Web site a live video feed of the oil gushing from the undersea BP well. So many people tried to watch the video feed, that the congressional Web site crashed.
Yesterday, BP announced it too was making available an online live video feed of the undersea oil spewing from its seabed well.
--Herald wire services contributed to this report.