EPA, DHS urge BP to hasten gulf oil spill cleanup efforts

US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson both urged BP PLC to speed its cleanup efforts in response to oil coming ashore from a deepwater blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, May 24 -- US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson both urged BP PLC to speed its cleanup efforts in response to oil coming ashore from a deepwater blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We are on them, watching them,” Napolitano said of BP. “We want to make sure the Coast Guard is on the ground making sure BP and their subcontractors are doing what they need to do. And, that is happening.” She was in Louisiana on May 24.

Louisiana state and parish officials have complained about delays in getting enough protective booms or oil cleanup crews. BP, which is responsible for cleaning up the spill, has hired subcontractors to do the work.

Jackson said, “There are certainly going to be opportunities for fines and penalties,” because oil has polluted about 60 miles of the Louisiana coast. Jackson toured the Mississippi Delta by boat on May 24, saying, “The oil is really piling up in those marshes.”

Dispersants being evaluated
EPA officials met with BP executives on May 23, and Jackson said she told BP executives to continue evaluating the use of other, less-toxic dispersants, which have been used on the surface of the gulf and at the subsea level.

On May 20, EPA ordered BP to identify alternate chemical dispersants (OGJ Online, May 24, 2010).

In response to the May 20 directive, BP responded that it wants to keep using the same chemical dispersant, Corexit 9500.

“We think it is prudent at this time to ramp down the overall use of dispersants,” Jackson said, adding this applies primarily to surface application of dispersants. “We expect EPA to keep evaluating other options,” she said.

Jackson ordered EPA scientists to do their own independent testing to determine if there is a less-toxic dispersant that would work on the spill. She said there are concerns about the unknown long-term consequences of using Corexit in large volumes.

“The science of dispersants has not in any way kept up with our ability to drill and extract fossil fuels,” Jackson said.

US Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said skimming and controlled burning are done when possible. Chemical dispersants are applied on the surface when the weather prevents spill response crews from skimming or burning.

BP plans a “top kill” procedure on May 26 to attempt to halt the flow of oil and gas from the well. During this procedure, dispersants will be applied at the subsea level, Jackson and Landry said.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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