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Transcript: Adm. Thad Allen on 'FNS'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published June 07, 2010 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a rush transcript of the June 6, 2010, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Joining us now is the White House point man for the oil spill, Admiral Thad Allen.
And, Admiral, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
ADM. THAD ALLEN, COAST GUARD: Hi, Chris.
WALLACE: Let's start with the report from the head of B.P. this morning that the containment well — the containment cap on the well is capturing 10,000 barrels of oil a day. Is that true?
ALLEN: That's correct, Chris. They've been able to increase production and increase the throughput to 10,000 barrels over the 6,000 of the day before.
WALLACE: So what percentage of the spill does that represent? And do you agree with the head of B.P. that once they adjust the cap, they're going to be able to capture 90 percent of the spill?
ALLEN: Well, that remains to be seen. I think I would establish that as a goal. We actually need to verify what's going to go on there. They need to slowly close those vents and optimize the amount of oil going up into production. Then we'll know for sure.
WALLACE: But 10,000 barrels a day currently — what does that represent as a percentage of the spill?
ALLEN: We had estimated at the low end 12,000 barrels a day to the high end of 19,000 to 25,000 barrels a day. So we have a way to go to kind of catch up with the — what we think the flow is.
WALLACE: But you're saying it could be anywhere from 80 percent to about 40 percent?
ALLEN: Right. Well, you know, these are rough estimates. One of the things the production allows us to do is get a real good handle on what the flow actually is by measuring the production.
WALLACE: Are there any more temporary fixes out there, or at this point, once you get that cap firmly on and you close the vents so that that oil as we see isn't spewing out quite as much, are we going to have to wait for the relief wells in August?
ALLEN: The final fix is the relief well in August, and that is the right time frame. And to mitigate the risk of that, there's a second relief well being drilled in case there's a problem with the first.
WALLACE: So we're going to see some version of what we're seeing here on the spill cam from now till August?
ALLEN: The seal around the containment cap has a rubber seal and what we're hoping to do is get as much pressure off that. There may be some oil leakage around down out the seal. We won't know that till we get to full production, and that's what they're ramping up right now.
WALLACE: How encouraged should we be by the fact that we do now finally have a cap on the well, it is capturing 10,000 barrels a day, and you think that's going to go up?
ALLEN: I'd give them a "noted." Let's keep going. I'm not going to - - I don't want to create any undo encouragement by anybody. We need to be on task and get this thing done. We need to under-promise and over-deliver.
WALLACE: So incomplete.
WALLACE: Meanwhile, the oil has hit, as we noted, 140 miles of the coastline from Louisiana all the way now into eastern Florida. What's your plan to keep the millions of gallons of oil now in the gulf from coming ashore?
ALLEN: Well, it's impacting 140 miles of coastline. It's much larger than that if you talk about the impact, because the entire coastline from central Louisiana to Port St. Joe, Florida is potentially at risk.
The problem we have — this is not a large monolithic spill anymore. It is a aggregation of thousands of smaller spills that could come ashore at any particular time based on wind and current. So while only 140 mile beaches are impacted, the front line is 300 to 400 miles.
WALLACE: And what are you going to do to defend those front lines?
ALLEN: Well, we have to — well, you can't wait for it to come to shore. You've got to get off — some of it's going to get through. We have to understand that. We've got to get offshore and we've got to skim. We've got to — we've got to attack the oil as far offshore as we can.
We've got a huge skimming armada from Louisiana to Florida operating right now and around the wellhead itself, but we've got to get the stuff offshore. When it comes ashore, nothing good happens.
WALLACE: There are now projections from scientific groups that it's going to get much worse, that the oil is going to get swept up in that current loop — or rather, loop current in the Gulf of Mexico and, as you can see here on the screen, that it's going to get swept around the Florida Keys, up the east coast and possibly even to Europe.
How likely is that, Admiral?
ALLEN: Well, the probability exists, but it's a low probability right now because an eddy has broken off at the top of that loop and it's actually moved further south in the last seven to 10 days. So far now, it is not a near-term problem (inaudible) get entrained in the loop but it's something we're watching very closely.
WALLACE: How satisfied are you with what B.P. is doing now? Forgetting who (inaudible) and what happened in the past, are you satisfied with what B.P. is doing now in terms of, one, drilling, dealing with the drill, with the well, and also with the clean-up?
ALLEN: I think you have to divide this into three parts. You have to look at the subsea, up — what's on the surface regarding the amount of oil and the skimming, what we're doing there, and then on shore.
At the bottom of the ocean, I think they're taking every step possible, and I've actually confirmed this with other industry leaders. These are the right steps to be taking.
I've had conversations with B.P. leadership. What they need to get better at — and they're getting better, but they need to get much better at — is the retail side, dealing with the people who are impacted by this in terms of claims and how they deal with the public that's really taken the hit on this.
WALLACE: And how about the clean-up? How are they doing with that?
ALLEN: Well, we're putting more Coast Guard people out there to provide direct oversight of the contractors. It's improving. The cycle time from when oil is sighted until we're on the scene is improving. It's got to get better. Nothing should be taken as good enough. It's got to get better.
WALLACE: Let's talk about some criticism. Louisiana governor Jindal has criticized the federal government, and I assume that includes you as the point man, for taking more than two weeks to approve the building of sand berms to protect the coastline, especially those marshes filled with wildlife in Louisiana.
And we can see these just heart-breaking pictures of the pelicans, now more and more of them drenched in oil. Question: Shouldn't you have moved faster?
ALLEN: Within 24 hours after the Corps of Engineers issued the permit to proceed, I told them we could — they could proceed with the prototype project. And at the direction of the president I convened a meeting last Tuesday in New Orleans and within 24 hours we gave them the yes.
WALLACE: But didn't it take two weeks from the time when they initially requested the sand berms till you got that...
ALLEN: That was the analysis of the permit by the Corps of Engineers looking at the environmental impacts. And I think it was a logical time to do that.
WALLACE: I mean, some people would say, "Look, you've got the oil coming in. Put up the berms."
ALLEN: Well, there are impacts. Putting up berms cuts off water along the estuaries. There are environmental impacts. And the Corps did not approve everything they asked for.
WALLACE: Let's talk about another aspect of this. Internal odds have now been released that show within 24 hours of the explosion that the Coast Guard knew that the spill was going to be worse, perhaps as much as eight times worse, than what B.P. and the government were telling the public at that time.
There are also reports that the Coast Guard had access to B.P. spill videos for weeks at the beginning and that B.P. told you — told the Coast Guard that you couldn't make those public. First of all, are both of those true?
ALLEN: From the very outset of the explosion — and I got a call within an hour and a half after the explosion occurred — we always were preparing for a worst-case discharge. I've never held any credibility with the 1,000, 5,000, even 8,000 by one of the staff officers making an estimate. We prepared for much larger than that. That did not constrain our response. We always knew we had a catastrophic event going on.
WALLACE: But the Coast Guard internal log said that you thought it was going to be 8,000 barrels a day, when B.P. and the government were telling us it was only 1,000 barrels a day.
ALLEN: That was an estimate by one of our officers. I personally gave direction that we need to be prepared for a worst-case scenario. We were never constrained by one, five, or 8,000.
WALLACE: And what about the B.P. spill videos? Did the Coast Guard have access to those video for a couple of weeks and you were told by B.P. don't make those public?
ALLEN: I'm not aware of that. I will actually check in and make a public statement. We've had access to videos and we asked them to release them to public. They have, as far as I know. But I will check into it and we'll make a statement.
WALLACE: No, there was a report that they gave you the videos but then said this is proprietary information and we didn't want to make it available.
ALLEN: That didn't get to my level. I'll check it out and we'll make a statement.
WALLACE: The question really is — the big question — who was really in charge in the first days, the first weeks, of this disaster, B.P. or the government? And if the government — and particularly the public — had known just how bad the situation was right from the start, would we perhaps — we the government — have responded faster?
ALLEN: Well, this started out as a search and rescue case. We had the explosion. We had the extraordinary tragic loss of 11 lives. And for 48 hours we were involved in search and rescue when the drill sunk. We mobilized every asset as if it were a catastrophic response.
After the Exxon Valdez, Congress passed legislation called the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, and the way we respond by designating B.P. as a responsible party and having them have contractors available to do the response is the structure that was mandated by Congress after the Exxon Valdez.
We are changing that as necessary to meet this very anomalous event we're dealing with now, but the notion that B.P. is the responsible party and hires contractors is the structure that was created by Congress in 1990.
WALLACE: So was B.P. in charge at the beginning?
ALLEN: We are accountable for oversight. B.P. is the responsible party, supposed to put the resources out there. In the long run the government is accountable. And frankly, I'm accountable.
WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that, finally. Who's in charge of the government's response? Who do you report to?
ALLEN: I report to Secretary Napolitano and the president.
WALLACE: So is Secretary Napolitano — who's in charge of saying, "We're going to do this today, we're not going to do that?"
ALLEN: Well, I'm the national incident commander. Obviously, I consult with the secretary and the president, and we take the advice of the — of the secretary. Secretary Salazar, Secretary Chu are down there looking at the technical issues associated with Houston.
But the final call has to be made to the federal on-scene coordinator by law, and that's a Coast Guard officer.
WALLACE: And that's you?
WALLACE: Admiral Allen, we want to thank you so much for coming in today. Good luck going forward.
ALLEN: Thank you.
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