A summary of events on Wednesday, June 2, Day 43 of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began with the April 20 explosion and fire on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased by BP PLC, which is in charge of cleanup and containment. The blast killed 11 workers. Since then, oil has been pouring into the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well.
As the crude crept closer to Florida, the risky effort to contain the nation's worst oil spill hit a snag Wednesday.
A diamond-edged saw got stuck in a thick pipe on a blown-out well at the bottom of the Gulf. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said the goal was to free the saw and finish the cut later in the day. A mile underwater, robot subs wielded tools akin to oversized garden shears to break away part of the broken riser pipe so engineers can then position a cap over the well's opening. Even if it succeeds, it will temporarily increase the huge leak's flow by 20 percent — at least 100,000 gallons more a day. That's on top of the estimated 500,000 to 1 million gallons gushing out already. BP's best chance to actually plug the leak rests with a pair of relief wells. Those won't likely be completed until August.
President Barack Obama said it was time to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil companies and use the money for clean energy research and development. He said the catastrophic Gulf oil spill shows the country must move toward clean energy, tapping natural gas and nuclear power and eliminating tax breaks for big oil.
Florida officials confirmed an oil sheen about seven miles from the famous white sands of Pensacola beach. Thunderstorms were making it difficult to track the slick. Crews shored up miles of boom and prepared for the mess to make landfall as early as Wednesday. Florida would be the fourth state hit. Crude has already been reported along barrier islands in Alabama and Mississippi, and it has mucked up some 125 miles of Louisiana coastline.
Two Democratic senators are pressing BP to delay plans to pay shareholder dividends worth an expected $10 billion or more until the full costs for cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are calculated. Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Ron Wyden of Oregon called it "unfathomable" that BP would pay out a dividend to shareholders before the total cost of the cleanup is known.
Federal regulators on Wednesday approved the first new Gulf of Mexico oil well since President Barack Obama lifted a brief ban on drilling in shallow water. Deepwater projects remained frozen after the massive BP spill. The Minerals Management Service granted a new drilling permit sought by Bandon Oil and Gas for a site off the coast of Louisiana and 115 feet below the ocean's surface. It's south of Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge and Game Preserve, far to the west of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the BP spill.
A spoof on BP's oil spill public relations has brought in $10,000 for a nonprofit conservation group for the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf Restoration Network official Aaron Viles says the person who has been tweeting as "BPGlobalPR" put $10,000 into the organization's PayPal account Wednesday. And Viles says there's a promise of more if the tweeter's T-shirts satirizing BP keep selling.
HOW MANY GALLONS?
Since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, eventually collapsing into the Gulf of Mexico, an estimated 21 million to 45 million gallons of oil has spewed, eclipsing the 11 million that leaked from the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Ben Brooks, a lawyer and Republican state senator from coastal Alabama, says he's no fan of big government but he expects an aggressive federal response to the oil spill. "There's nothing inherently contradictory in saying we believe in smaller government and demanding that the government protect public safety," Brooks said. He's not alone. All along the Gulf Coast, where the tea party thrives and "socialism" is a common description for any government program, conservatives who usually denounce federal activism suddenly are clamoring for it.
As oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, actress Victoria Principal has stepped up with a $200,000 donation to help clean things up. Oceana and the Natural Resources Defense Council say the former "Dallas" star wants the two nonprofits to work together to address the damage along the Gulf Coast and support a shift toward renewable energy. Other celebrities also have become involved. Ted Danson, who is on Oceana's board of directors, is an outspoken critic of offshore drilling. Director James Cameron met with officials to share his expertise on underwater filming and remote vehicle technologies. And Kevin Costner has invested more than $24 million to develop devices now under consideration to help clean up the spill.