Frustration Grows Over Gulf Oil Spill

An oil-soaked pelican takes flight i i

An oil-soaked pelican takes flight after Louisiana Fish and Wildlife employees tried to corral him on an island in Barataria Bay, just inside the the coast of Louisiana, on Sunday. The island is home to hundreds of brown pelican nests, as well at terns, gulls and roseate spoonbills. Gerald Herbert/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Gerald Herbert/AP
An oil-soaked pelican takes flight

An oil-soaked pelican takes flight after Louisiana Fish and Wildlife employees tried to corral him on an island in Barataria Bay, just inside the the coast of Louisiana, on Sunday. The island is home to hundreds of brown pelican nests, as well at terns, gulls and roseate spoonbills.

Gerald Herbert/AP

The Obama administration said Sunday that it has lost patience with BP's efforts to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and threatened to take over the operation, though it acknowledged that BP has expertise they lack in stopping the deep-water leak.

After talks at BP headquarters in Houston, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he's just about had it with the company, which leased the oil rig that exploded last month and is responsible for the cleanup.

"We are 33 days into this effort, and deadline after deadline has been missed," said Salazar. "If we find they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing," said Salazar, "we'll push them out of the way appropriately."

At least 6 million gallons of crude have spewed into the Gulf, though some scientists have said they believe the spill already surpasses the 11 million gallon 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska as the worst in U.S. history.

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal said that BP is falling far short in deploying boats — especially those owned by out-of-work fishermen — to collect oil now coating beaches and wetland areas farther inland. He says conditions are perfect for skimming operations, yet oil continues pouring past barriers he's monitoring.

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    A boat uses a boom and absorbent material to soak up oil in Cat Bay, near Grand Isle, La., on June 28. A tropical storm is expected to hit the Gulf and impede cleanup efforts.
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    Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and wife Carole Rome Crist (right) stand with others during a Hands Across the Sand event June 26 in Pensacola, Fla. The event was staged across the nation to protest offshore oil drilling.
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    Oil clouds the surface of Barataria Bay near Port Sulpher, La., on June 19.
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    Workers adjust piping while drilling a relief well at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
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    A dolphin rises up out of the water near Grand Terre Island off the coast of Louisiana on June 14.
    Derick E. Hingle/AP
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    President Obama stands with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (right) and Gulfport, Miss., Mayor George Schloegel after meeting with residents affected by the oil spill.
    Charles Dharapak/AP
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    Crude oil washes ashore in Orange Beach, Ala., on June 12. Oil slicks, 4 to 6 inches thick in some parts, have washed up along the Alabama coast.
    Dave Martin/AP
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    A volunteer uses a toothbrush to clean an oil-covered white pelican at the Fort Jackson Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Buras, La., June 9.
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    A shrimp boat skims oil from the surface of the water just off Orange Beach, Ala., as a family enjoys the surf. Oily tar balls have started washing up on Orange Beach and beaches in the western Florida panhandle.
    Dave Martin/AP
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    Sand from a dredge is pumped onto East Grand Terre Island, La., to provide a barrier against the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, June 8.
    Charlie Riedel/AP
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    A dead turtle floats on a pool of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill in Barataria Bay off the coast of Louisiana on June 7.
    Charlie Riedel/AP
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    Workers use absorbent pads to remove oil that has washed ashore from the spill in Grand Isle, La., June 6.
    Eric Gay/AP
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    Plaquemines Parish coastal zone director P.J. Hahn lifts an oil-covered pelican out of the water on Queen Bess Island in Plaquemines Parish, La., June 5.
    Gerald Herbert/AP
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    Heavy oil pools along the side of a boom just outside Cat Island in Grand Isle, La., June 6.
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    President Obama walks alongside Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle (from right), U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is in charge of the federal response to the spill, and Chris Camardelle after meeting with local business owners in Grand Isle, La., June 4.
    Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
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    A brown pelican sits on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast after being drenched in oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, June 3.
    Charlie Riedel/AP
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    U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announces that the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into the BP oil spill. With him, from left: Stephanie Finley and Jim Letten, U.S. attorneys for the Western District of Louisiana; Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division; Tony West, assistant attorney general, Civil Division; and Don Burkhalter, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi.
    Cheryl Gerber/AP
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    The oil slick off the coast of Louisiana, seen from above.
    NASA via Getty Images
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    A worker leaves the beach in Grand Isle, La., on May 30. BP is turning to yet another mix of undersea robot maneuvers to help keep more crude oil from flowing into the Gulf.
    Jae C. Hong/AP
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    Protesters cover themselves with a water and paint mixture during a demonstration at a BP gas station in New York City on May 28.
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    Workers clean up oil in Pass a Loutre, La. The latest attempt to plug the leak was unsuccessful.
    Jae C. Hong, File/AP
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    Residents listen to a discussion with parish officials and a BP representative on May 25 in Chalmette, La. Officials now say that it may be impossible to clean the hundreds of miles of coastal wetlands affected by the massive oil spill.
    Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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    An oil-soaked pelican takes flight after Louisiana Fish and Wildlife employees tried to corral it on an island in Barataria Bay on the coast of Louisiana. The island, which is home to hundreds of brown pelican nests as well at terns, gulls and roseate spoonbills, is impacted by oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
    Gerald Herbert/AP
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    A sign warns the public to stay away from the beach on Grand Isle, La. Officials closed the oil-covered beaches to the public indefinitely on Saturday.
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    Pelican eggs stained with oil sit in a nest on an island in Barataria Bay on May 22.
    Gerald Herbert/AP
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    A bird flies over oil that has collected on wetlands on Elmer's Island in Grand Isle, La., May 20. The oil came inland despite oil booms that were placed at the wetlands' mouth on the Gulf of Mexico.
    Patrick Semansky/AP
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    Members of the Louisiana National Guard build a land bridge at the mouth of wetlands on Elmer's Island.
    Patrick Semansky/AP
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    The hands of boat captain Preston Morris are covered in oil after collecting surface samples from the marsh of Pass a Loutre, La., on May 19.
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    Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (center) and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser (right) tour the oil-impacted marsh of Pass a Loutre, La. "This is the heavy oil that everyone's been fearing that is here now," said Jindal.
    Gerald Herbert/AP
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    BP Chairman and President Lamar McKay (left), with Transocean President and CEO Steven Newman (center) and Applied Science Associates Principal Deborah French McCay, testifies during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing May 18 on response efforts to the Gulf Coast oil spill.
    Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
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    This undated frame grab image received from BP and provided by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee shows details of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP has agreed to display a live video feed of the oil gusher on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee's website beginning Thursday evening.
    Senate Environment and Public Works Committee/AP
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    President Obama speaks with local fishermen about how they are affected by the oil spill in Venice, La., on May 2.
    Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
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    Danene Birtell with Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research tends to a Northern Gannet in Fort Jackson, La., on April 30. The bird, normally white when full grown, is covered in oil from the oil spill.
    Alex Brandon/AP
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    Since the explosion, a third oil leak has been discovered in the blown-out well.
    Gerald Herbert/AP
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    In this aerial photo taken April 21 more than 50 miles southeast of Venice, La., the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns.
    Gerald Herbert/AP
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    Tendrils of oil mar the waters of the Gulf of Mexico in this satellite image taken Monday. An estimated 5,000 barrels of oil a day are seeping into the Gulf, after an explosion last week on a drilling rig about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast.
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Jindal said the state has begun work on a chain of berms, reinforced with containment booms, that would skirt the state's coastline.

"As we talk, a total of more than 65 miles of our shoreline now has been oiled," said Jindal.

He said the berms would close the door on oil still pouring from a mile-deep gusher about 50 miles out in the Gulf. The berms would be made with sandbags and sand hauled in; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also is considering a broader plan that would use dredging to build sand berms across more of the barrier islands.

Salazar said he is "not completely" confident that BP knows what it's doing. His remarks came as BP said it will be at least Tuesday before engineers can shoot mud into the blown-out well at the bottom of the Gulf, yet another delay in the effort to plug up the break. The company had originally hoped to try the so-called top kill method as early as this weekend.

Earlier in the day, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is responsible for the oversight of the month-old spill response, said he, too, is frustrated, and that he understands the discontent among residents who want to know what's next.

"If anybody is frustrated with this response, I would tell them their symptoms are normal, because I'm frustrated, too," said Allen. "Nobody likes to have a feeling that you can't do something about a very big problem."

But Allen said only the private sector has the technical expertise to stop the spill. And he said the government must hold BP accountable. After the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spilled 11 million gallons of oil in Alaska, Congress dictated that oil companies be responsible for dealing with major accidents — including paying for all cleanup — with oversight by federal agencies.

Delays, Setbacks Mark Efforts To Halt Spill

BP has tried and failed several times to halt the gusher, and has had some success with a mile-long tube inserted into the leaking well last week. But on Sunday, the company said that method isn't working as effectively as before.

BP spokesman John Curry told The Associated Press that the tube siphoned some 57,120 gallons of oil within the past 24 hours, a sharp drop from the 92,400 gallons of oil a day that the device was sucking up on Friday. However, the company has said the amount of oil siphoned will vary widely from day to day.

On Tuesday, crews plan to shoot heavy mud into a crippled piece of equipment atop the well. Then engineers will direct cement at the well to permanently stop the oil. The method has been tried on land but never 5,000 feet underwater, so scientists and engineers have spent the past week preparing and taking measurements to make sure it will stop the oil that has been spewing into the sea for a month.

"It's taking time to get everything set up," BP spokesman Tom Mueller said. "They're taking their time. It's never been done before. We've got to make sure everything is right."

Engineers are also developing several other plans in case the top kill doesn't work, including an effort to shoot knotted rope, pieces of tire and other material — known as a junk shot — to plug the blowout preventer, which was meant to shut off the oil in case of an accident but did not work.

As Spill Grows, So Does Anger

The spill's impact now stretches across 150 miles, from Dauphin Island, Ala., to Grand Isle, La.

On Sunday, oil reached an 1,150-acre oyster ground leased by Belle Chasse, La., fisherman Dave Cvitanovich. He said cleanup crews were stringing lines of absorbent boom along the surrounding marshes, but that still left large clumps of rust-colored oil floating over his oyster beds. Mature oysters might eventually filter out the crude and become fit for sale, but this year's crop of spate, or young oysters, will perish.

"Those will die in the oil," Cvitanovich said. "It's inevitable."

Each day the spill grows, so does anger with the government and BP. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa P. Jackson was headed Sunday to Louisiana, where she planned to visit with frustrated residents.

Salazar and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano were to lead a Senate delegation to the region on Monday to fly over affected areas and keep an eye on the response.

The head of the Senate's environmental committee, Democrat Barbara Boxer of California, has asked the Justice Department to determine whether BP made false and misleading claims about its ability to prevent a serious oil spill.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs also told CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday that Justice Department officials have been to the region gathering information about the spill. However, he wouldn't say whether the department has opened a criminal investigation.

President Obama has named a special independent commission to review what happened. The spill began after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana on April 20, killing 11 workers; the rig sank two days later.

Marshes, Wildlife Feeling The Effects

Meanwhile, thick, brown oil continues to wash up into the marshes and onto the beaches of some barrier islands and in some coastal wetlands west of the Mississippi River in southern Louisiana.

And experts say this is only just the beginning.

Much of the massive amount of oil has been floating around in Gulf currents away from shore. Now, residents along the Gulf Coast can expect to see oil continue washing ashore for weeks and months to come.

Crews trying to mop up the oil are finding it difficult to try to clean up the toxic mess, particularly when it gets deep inside of marshes and clings to the tall reeds and grasses.

In Barataria Bay, orange oil had made its way a good 6 inches onto the shore, coating grasses and the nests of brown pelicans in mangrove trees. Just six months ago, the birds had been removed from the federal endangered species list.

The pelicans struggled to clean the crude from their bodies, splashing in the water and preening themselves. One stood at the edge of the island with its wings lifted slightly, its head drooping — so encrusted in oil it couldn't fly.

Wildlife officials tried to rescue oil-soaked pelicans Sunday, but they suspended their efforts after spooking the birds. They weren't sure whether they would try again. U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Stacy Shelton said it is sometimes better to leave the animals alone than to disturb their colony.

Pelicans are especially vulnerable to oil. Not only could they eat tainted fish and feed it to their young, but they could die of hypothermia or drowning if they're soaked in oil.

Globs of oil have soaked through containment booms set up in the area. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said BP needed to send more booms. He said it would be up to federal wildlife authorities to decide whether to try to clean the oil that has already washed ashore.

"The question is, will it do more damage because this island is covered with the mess?" Nungesser said.

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