The Obama administration is putting pressure on BP to provide details of how it plans to improve containment and cleanup efforts from the oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
The blown-out well on the Deepwater Horizon platform has been spewing for 80 days.
In a letter to BP, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen — the man in charge of government oversight of the cleanup — gave the company 24 hours to report back to him. Allen wants to see a timeline addressing efforts to cap the well and contain more of the oil fouling the Gulf.
"We are entering a critical stage in the response where key decisions will be made," Allen wrote. "And those decisions also overlap with predictions for an active storm and hurricane season."
Storms have already hampered efforts to fight the spread of oil, but forecasters predict a window of good weather ahead.
Allen wants decision points from BP on a plan to hook up a third vessel that could more than double the current capacity to capture leaking oil. He also wants to know when the company will finish drilling relief wells, a tactic that might have the best chance at stopping the underwater gusher.
Weather has already delayed plans to hook up the Helix Producer containment vessel that could collect more than 1 million gallons of oil per day.
Officials have been waiting until the Helix was in place before replacing the current "top cap" with a tighter-fitting "sealing cap," a maneuver that requires eight days of calm weather.
Forecasters say that weather window is available now, leading officials to consider hooking up the Helix and replacing the cap at the same time. The simultaneous maneuver would temporarily decrease the amount of oil being contained, though officials say both the Helix and the new cap would increase the total amount of contained oil to about 3.3 million gallons a day.
With additional reporting from The Associated Press