BP To Continue Video Feed During 'Top Kill' Try

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, seen testifying on Capitol Hill i i

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, seen testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told NPR that "there's definitely an environmental trade-off" in using Corexit to try to disperse oil. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, seen testifying on Capitol Hill

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, seen testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told NPR that "there's definitely an environmental trade-off" in using Corexit to try to disperse oil.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Energy giant BP said Tuesday that it will continue to provide a live video feed of the oil spill during a procedure called a "top kill," designed to choke off the leak in the Gulf of Mexico; earlier reports had said the company was planning to cut off the broadcast.

"Following detailed discussion with the National Incident Commander, Adm. Thad Allen, [BP] will continue to provide live video feeds from the seabed throughout the planned 'top kill' procedure," the company said in a statement on its website.

The development follows remarks earlier Tuesday by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) that BP would cut the live feed.

Markey, who was instrumental in getting BP to provide the live feed in the first place, had expressed anger.

"It is outrageous that BP would kill the video feed for the top kill," Markey said earlier.

The top kill procedure involves shooting heavy mud and cement into the well to plug it up. The procedure has never been tried a mile beneath the sea, and company executives estimate its chances of success at 60 to 70 percent

President Obama prepared to head to the Gulf on Friday to review efforts to halt the disastrous flow, but before that he is expected to call for tougher safety requirements for offshore drilling and a stronger inspections regime.

Environmental Trade-Off

Also Tuesday, the head of the EPA defended the decision to allow BP to continue using a potentially toxic oil dispersant to minimize damage to Gulf coastlines after the Deepwater Horizon disaster off Louisiana.

In an interview with NPR, Lisa Jackson said the Environmental Protection Agency had ordered well operator BP to stop using Corexit 9500, but later agreed to let the company use a reduced amount because no suitable alternative is available.

Meanwhile, BP engineers were gearing up for another attempt to plug the undersea wellhead, this time by inserting mud and possibly other debris directly into the opening that has spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico since the April 20 accident.

In a letter last week, the EPA ordered BP to stop using Corexit to disperse the oil. But the agency later stepped back from that decision, instead asking the oil giant to use less of the chemical until an alternative is found. BP is reportedly complying with the government's request.

The EPA's Jackson said the agency initially asked BP to produce a list of alternatives to Corexit within 24 hours, but the company said none were readily available. That's when the EPA told BP to scale back its use of Corexit.

"It's not second-guessing the original decision. It's saying, 'OK, what else is out there, and do we need to order it?' " she said.

"There's definitely an environmental trade-off," Jackson told NPR. "It's the trade-off between leaving the oil to rise to the surface and disperse naturally; or trying, especially in deep water, to get it to disperse more effectively so that it never reaches the shorelines."

Moving In For The 'Top Kill'

  • 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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    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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    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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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  • Workers use absorbent pads to remove oil that has washed ashore from the spill in Grand Isle, La., June 6.
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    Workers use absorbent pads to remove oil that has washed ashore from the spill in Grand Isle, La., June 6.
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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.
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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.
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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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    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.
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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.
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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.
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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
  • 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 Do...
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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.
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    The oil slick off the coast of Louisiana, seen from above.
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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.
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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.
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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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    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.
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    Workers clean up oil in Pass a Loutre, La. The latest attempt to plug the leak was unsuccessful.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
  • 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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    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.
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    Pelican eggs stained with oil sit in a nest on an island in Barataria Bay on May 22.
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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.
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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.
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  • Members of the Louisiana National Guard build a land bridge at the mouth of wetlands on Elmer's Island.
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    Members of the Louisiana National Guard build a land bridge at the mouth of wetlands on Elmer's Island.
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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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    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.
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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
  • 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.
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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
  • 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.
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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
  • President Obama speaks with local fishermen about how they are affected by the oil spill in Venice, La., on May 2.
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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.
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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.
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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
  • Since the explosion, a third oil leak has been discovered in the blown-out well.
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    Since the explosion, a third oil leak has been discovered in the blown-out well.
    Gerald Herbert/AP
  • In this aerial photo taken April 21 more than 50 miles southeast of Venice, La., the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns.
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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
  • 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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    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.
    Courtesy of Digital Globe

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After several contingency plans failed to cap the blown-out well, BP is now pinning its hopes on the top kill method.

BP engineers had necessary equipment in place Tuesday and planned to start 12 hours of tests to prepare for the maneuver Wednesday, said BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells.

"We've connected all our subsea equipment and are in the final stages of pressure-testing it," Wells said in a conference call with reporters. He said the diagnostic tests would determine whether it was advisable to go ahead with the procedure.

On Monday, BP's chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, gave the top kill a 60 percent to 70 percent chance of success, but Wells was a bit more sanguine, echoing earlier statements the company has made about the difficulty of working at such massive depths.

The top kill procedure "has been done successfully in the past, but it has not been done at 5,000 feet," Wells said.

If the top kill should fail, he said, the next option would be to bring in another concrete cap that would go over the Lower Marine Riser Package. The LMRP is part of the blowout preventer that failed to function properly and is thought to have contributed to the April 20 accident.

The only permanent solution is a pair of relief wells that crews have already started drilling, but that task could take at least two months.

Still Searching For Answers

BP is briefing the federal government on an internal investigation into the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster, which killed 11 people. The probe focuses on two key areas as possible causes: the failure of the blowout preventer, and cement work being done at the wellhead hours before the explosion. BP said in a statement late Monday that no final conclusion has been reached. But the company did acknowledge that multiple control mechanisms should have prevented the accident.

BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward called it a complex accident caused by an unprecedented combination of failures.

Meanwhile, a new report by the Interior Department's acting inspector general found that staffers at the Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling, accepted tickets to sporting events and other gifts from oil and gas companies, and used government computers to view pornography.

In at least one case, an inspector for the MMS admitted using crystal methamphetamine and said he might have been under the influence of the drug the next day at work, according to the report. It follows a 2008 report alleging a culture of cronyism between regulators and the industry.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who has called the findings "deeply disturbing," said several employees mentioned in the report have resigned, were fired or were referred for prosecution. All violations in the report occurred before the Gulf spill.

Far-Reaching Disaster

At a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) said that a $75 million federal cap on damages "clearly is nowhere near the damages that … have resulted from this disaster."

"We need to ensure that those harmed by this accident are fully compensated and that a system is in place that properly allocates risks and losses," Bingaman said.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has been critical of the federal government's response to the crisis, which has had its greatest impact so far on his state. He said he was going to call out members of the Louisiana National Guard to join state wildlife and fisheries agents to supplement the "inadequate" federal response.

Jindal singled out the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to sign off on a plan to build a chain of protective sand barriers, or berms, off the coast to help block the oil.

"We are not waiting for them. We are going to build it," Jindal said. U.S. officials say the Corps is nearing a final decision.

The governor warned of a far-reaching disaster if the ongoing efforts to stop the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico are unsuccessful. "This oil threatens not only our coast and our wetlands; this oil fundamentally threatens our way of life here in south Louisiana," he told reporters.

At Jindal's request, the Department of Commerce on Tuesday declared a commercial fisheries failure for Louisiana. The move clears the way for federal aid to commercial fishermen who have been hit hard by the spill.

At a town hall meeting this week attended by a BP claims representative in Chalmette, La., angry citizens, including many out-of-work fishermen, vented their frustrations about the effort to contain the spill.

"I'm not seeing BP coming to save my heritage yet," said Erwin Menesses. "That's important to me. Just as important as money."

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