A summary of events Wednesday, June 30, Day 71 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.
WHALE ON THE WAY
With hurricane-whipped waves pushing more oil onto the Gulf of Mexico's once-white beaches, the government is pinning its latest cleanup hopes on a huge new piece of equipment: the world's largest oil-skimming vessel. The Taiwanese-flagged former tanker named the "A Whale" is the length of 3½ football fields and stands 10 stories high. It just emerged from an extensive retrofitting to prepare it specifically for the Gulf, where officials hope it will be able to suck up as much as 21 million gallons of oil-fouled water per day.
SAVING SEA TURTLES
An effort to save thousands of sea turtle hatchlings from dying in the oily Gulf of Mexico will begin in the coming weeks in a desperate attempt to keep an entire generation of threatened species from vanishing. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will coordinate the plan that calls for the collection of some 70,000 turtle eggs in up to 800 nests buried on beaches across the Florida Panhandle and Alabama. It's never been done before on a such a massive scale, but experts agree that doing nothing could lead to unprecedented deaths.
Rep. Edward Markey says BP's disaster response plan for an oil spill doesn't mention hurricanes or tropical storms. Markey says the omission is yet another example of what the oil giant was not prepared to handle. The Massachusetts Democrat's comments came during a congressional hearing on a law to improve technology intended to prevent disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
An administrator for BP claims says it hasn't reimbursed leaders in a Florida Panhandle county for about $75,000 in expenses because it doesn't have the county's phone number. A recent letter the Delaware-based claims administrator sent to the county states that the company doesn't have a working number for the county. However, Escambia County Commission Chairman Grover Robinson IV says all communications between ESIS, a third-party claims administrator for BP, and the county are on letterhead with the county's phone number.
EPA officials say their first round of testing on chemicals used to break apart the oil in the Gulf of Mexico shows all the available dispersants are generally equally toxic. Paul Anastas, EPA's assistant administrator for research and development, says that the testing also showed the chemicals are far less toxic than oil. He said none of the chemicals had dangerous effects on the sea life tested. The chemicals break oil into smaller particles that are easier for microbes to consume.
An Interior Department official says the government is expected soon to issue more permits for drilling in shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The decision would not affect the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed in the aftermath of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While drilling in shallow waters was not part of the moratorium, there has been confusion about whether new permits will be approved for shallow water leases. Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes told a House hearing that he expects more shallow water drilling applications to be approved as they are received.