Events May 18, Day 29 of a Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began with an explosion and fire April 20 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 at a rate of at least 210,000 gallons per day.
Last week, it was oil executives who faced the wrath of lawmakers eager to find blame for the massive oil spill spreading in the Gulf of Mexico. On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other federal officials were facing questions about what the government did — or did not do — to prevent the oil spill, and how they have responded since oil started streaming into the Gulf last month. Salazar, who oversees the federal agency that monitors offshore drilling, was to testify before two Senate committees. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen also were to testify at separate hearings, and oil company executives were back for a second round of questions.
COLLECTING THE OIL
BP says its mile-long tube siphoning oil from a blown-out well is bringing more crude to the surface. In a news release Tuesday, BP PLC says the narrow tube is now drawing 84,000 gallons a day for collection in a tanker — double the amount when it started operation Sunday. BP — which puts the leak at 210,000 gallons — has said it hopes to draw about half the leaking oil. Officials say it's a rough estimate at best. Scientists who have studied video of the leak say the amount could be significantly more.
WHERE IS IT GOING?
University scientists say oil from the spill off Louisiana could reach Florida's Key West by Sunday. University of South Florida researchers using computer models said Tuesday the southern arm of the massive spill has entered or is near the so-called loop current, which circulates in the Gulf and takes water south to the Florida Keys and the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream could eventually take the oil up Florida's Atlantic coast.
Like many American Indians on the bayou, Emary Billiot blames oil companies for ruining his ancestral marsh over the decades. Still, he's always been able to fish — but now even that is not a certainty. The oil spill has closed bays and lakes in Louisiana's bountiful delta, including fishing grounds that feed the last American-Indian villages in three parishes. It is a bitter blow for the tribes of south Louisiana, who charge that drilling has already destroyed their swamps and that oil and land companies illegally grabbed vast areas.