Gulf Residents Adopt 'Wait And See' Attitude To Cap
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
I'm Robert Siegel.
There is guarded optimism on the Gulf Coast and at the White House today, now that the blown out oil well has been capped. BP says no oil has leaked from the Deepwater Horizon well for more than 24 hours. The company closed off all the valves on a new tightly-sealed containment cap yesterday.
In this part of the program we'll hear about reaction to that news and next steps. We begin with NPR's Debbie Elliott in coastal Alabama.
DEBBIE ELLIOTT: President Obama says the new cap is good news, but cautions it's not the final solution.
President BARACK OBAMA: It's important that we don't get ahead of ourselves here. You know, one of the problems with having this camera down there is that when the oil stops gushing, everybody feels like we're done and we're not.
ELLIOTT: A relief well to permanently plug the leak is expected to be complete in mid-August. But for now, BP has shut in the well and is conducting tests to make sure the procedure isn't causing other leaks elsewhere, something President Obama says would be catastrophic.
It's the first bit of hopeful news for people on the Gulf Coast who have been disheartened by BP's inability to stop the underwater gusher until now.
(Soundbite of waves on a beach)
ELLIOTT: On the public beach in Orange Beach, Alabama, today, less than two dozen tourists navigated around tiny tar balls to lounge on the sand and watch the emerald green waves wash ashore.
Ms. PAT CONERLY(ph): It looks so pretty. It just is alluring.
ELLIOTT: But Pat Conerly of Carrollton, Georgia is staying out to the water, even though there are no signs of oil washing in. She hopes the new cap will hold.
Ms. CONERLY: I'm elated, but I'm very scared that it isn't going to work. I think I'm afraid it's going to blow somewhere else. And if it comes out at the sea level, I mean the floor level, then there's no way to stop it, you know. I mean, oh, it's just heartbreaking to me. But I've got my fingers crossed. I mean I'm wishing them well for this one thing.
ELLIOTT: Art Harrison(ph) of Pensacola, Florida says he was overjoyed to hear that something had finally worked.
Mr. ART HARRISON: Yeah, I realize that we really shouldn't be, we're not really ready to celebrate or party yet, because it could blow off tomorrow. I know that. I'm just thankful that we got it stopped for now.
ELLIOTT: It's about time, says Orange Beach city council member Ed Carroll.
Mr. ED CARROLL (City Council Member, Orange Beach, Alabama): That should've happened a month ago or better. But it's great to see that they finally got it capped. And of course it's nothing - a simple matter.
ELLIOTT: The complicated picture deep below the sea is what worries local resident Frank Burkhalter(ph). He would rather see BP use the new capping system to bring oil up to production vessels on the surface.
Mr. FRANK BURKHALTER: Well, I'm just kind of scared that they're going to put all that pressure on the pipe and there will be another leak and mess up the whole thing. I think they ought to keep on sucking that oil out of there.
ELLIOTT: Still, many locals acknowledge this is the best news they've had yet in the 87 days since the well blew.
Gin Arnold manages the gift shop at Tacky Jacks, the restaurant President Obama visited on his last trip to the Gulf Coast. He's got mixed feelings.
Mr. GIN ARNOLD (Gift Shop Manager, Tacky Jacks): I was happy that they got it done, but is it for real? And how much damage have we had already?
ELLIOTT: Now comes the hard part, Arnold says: the cleanup and trying to get the region's economy back on track.
Mr. ARNOLD: Now we can only hope that the American people say, well, it's capped, so let's go to the beach.
ELLIOTT: Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Orange Beach, Alabama.