A summary of events on Thursday, June 17, Day 58 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.
A grim-faced BP chief executive Tony Hayward said Thursday he was "deeply sorry" for his company's catastrophic oil spill. "I understand the seriousness of the situation, the frustrations and fears that continue to be voiced," he told a House investigations subcommittee. He also said, "The fire and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon never should have happened and I'm deeply sorry that it did." And, while "we need to know what went wrong" Hayward also said there is still "extensive work to do" before anyone can say what caused the blowout.
Before testifying, Hayward had to endure more than an hour of mostly unrelenting criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike. "We are not small people, but we wish to get our lives back," Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., the panel's chairman, told Hayward, throwing back comments made the day before by BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg — about how BP sympathized with the "small people" of the Gulf — and Hayward's earlier remark that he wanted his "life back." Rep. Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, said that BP "appears to have taken their eye off the ball." Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn, told Hayward "BP has not learned from previous mistakes." Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said the company "cut corner after corner," and ignored "tremendous risk."
$20 BILLION FUND
A leading House Republican accused the White House Thursday of a "$20 billion shakedown" by requiring BP to establish a huge fund to compensate those hurt by the Gulf Coast oil spill. Rep. Joe Barton of Texas spoke at the start of a House hearing where Hayward appeared for the first time before Congress. Rep. Ed Markey sharply disagreed with Barton, saying the fund was government working to protect the nation's most vulnerable citizens. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs responded: "What is shameful is that Joe Barton seems to have more concern for big corporations that caused this disaster than the fishermen, small business owners and communities whose lives have been devastated by the destruction."
A woman disrupted a House hearing just as Hayward began his testimony. The woman, identified as Diane Wilson, shouted from the back of the room, "You need to be charged with a crime." Capitol police grabbed her and took her from the room. Wilson, 61, a fourth-generation fisher from Seadrift, Texas, and other protesters then milled in the hall. Wilson's hand was stained black. Ann Wright, 63, of Honolulu, Hawaii, wore a BP hard hat, overalls and sunglasses adorned with dollar signs. "BP doesn't really care about this," she said, pulling out an oil-stained rubber ducky.
A relief well meant to stanch a gushing flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico is ahead of schedule and could reach its target in three to four weeks, says Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen. He said a rig has drilled nearly 10,000 feet below the seafloor and should be within 10 feet of the existing well within weeks. It will then bore down about 1,000 feet to intersect with the damaged well farther underground. Allen says the final push of drilling is the most difficult. The well originally was slated for completion in mid-August.
As of Thursday morning, the BP well had gushed between 66 million and 120 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, based on government daily spill rate figures. Newly disclosed documents obtained by the AP show that after the Deepwater Horizon sank, BP made a worst-case estimate of 2.5 million gallons a day flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. That is far higher than the company had said publicly until this week, when the government released its own worst-case estimate of about that amount. The undated estimate by BP, apparently was made sometime last month.
Mr. Charlie has seen the up and downs over the years in the oil patch off Louisiana's coast, but this could be the toughest slump of all. Earlier this week, the steel rig stationed on the Atchafalaya River graduated what could be one of its last classes of workers prepping for the rigors of offshore life. President Barack Obama's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf has sent shudders across the coast's offshore oil industry — where no one knows just how extensive or long-lasting the damage to jobs may be.
Grounded by oil, the charter boat owner along Alabama's Gulf Coast known as Capt. Bligh walks past an old first mate. "Arrrrrrgh," Bligh growls like a pirate. He has beard like Santa Claus and a belt with saltwater fish embroidered in the webbing. Hardly anyone calls him by his real name, Brent Shaver. A lot of people don't even know it. Earlier this month, Shaver began a scary season — one without fishing. He had to shut down his inshore guide business after oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill made it through a pass into Perdido Bay, about 100 miles north of the rig site. Rust-colored tar balls now stain its sandy shores.
A dead sperm whale has been found floating 77 miles south of the vast oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. According to a news release, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is conducting tests to learn where it might have died, whether it had been in oil and what caused its death. The whale was partly decomposed when it was found Tuesday.