Best-Case Scenario For Gulf Spill Still Looks BleakOil-catching booms and chemical dispersants have had limited success. BP's plan to build and deploy a dome over the gushing Gulf of Mexico wellhead will take at least another six to eight days. If that doesn't work, BP's only backup plan involves two relief wells that will take as long as three months to drill.
Best-Case Scenario For Gulf Spill Still Looks Bleak
NPR Staff and Wires
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
President Obama stands with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (right) and Gulfport, Miss., Mayor George Schloegel after meeting with residents affected by the oil spill.
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.
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.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
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.
Sand from a dredge is pumped onto East Grand Terre Island, La., to provide a barrier against the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, June 8.
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.
Workers use absorbent pads to remove oil that has washed ashore from the spill in Grand Isle, La., June 6.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Jae C. Hong/AP
Protesters cover themselves with a water and paint mixture during a demonstration at a BP gas station in New York City on May 28.
Workers clean up oil in Pass a Loutre, La. The latest attempt to plug the leak was unsuccessful.
Jae C. Hong, File/AP
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
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.
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.
John Moore/Getty Images
Pelican eggs stained with oil sit in a nest on an island in Barataria Bay on May 22.
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.
Members of the Louisiana National Guard build a land bridge at the mouth of wetlands on Elmer's Island.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
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.
Since the explosion, a third oil leak has been discovered in the blown-out well.
In this aerial photo taken April 21 more than 50 miles southeast of Venice, La., the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns.
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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Rough weather Monday continued to hamper efforts to contain a giant oil slick menacing the Gulf Coast as officials redoubled their efforts to stave off what is shaping up to be an inevitable economic and environmental disaster.
The best-case scenario is that oil will continue gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for another week. British oil company BP is working to deploy a system that would siphon away crude from the blown-out well a mile underwater, but it will take six to eight days to get it in place.
As coastal communities waited for the 130-mile-long, rust-colored slick to wash ashore, BP's CEO told NPR that his company would assume full responsibility for the cost of the cleanup and any "legitimate" legal claims made as a result of the spill. The company leased the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that was hit by an explosion April 20 and sank two days later, killing 11 workers.
"It is indeed BP's responsibility to deal with this, and we are dealing with it," Tony Hayward told Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep.
"We will absolutely be paying for the cleanup operation. There is no doubt about that. It's our responsibility — we accept it fully," he added.
BP posted a fact sheet on its website detailing that it would pay compensation for legitimate claims for property damage, personal injury and commercial losses.
President Obama reiterated Sunday that BP must shoulder the cost of the disaster. "BP is responsible for this leak. BP will be paying the bill," he said while touring a Coast Guard staging area in Venice, La.
Teams working to contain the spill have had limited success using airplanes to drop chemical dispersants meant to break up the oil, and rough seas have prevented ships from skimming crude from the surface.
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said Monday that wind and waves had displaced nearly 80 percent of the containment boom that had been put around the state's fragile coastline. But he was optimistic that containment efforts could be put back on track.
"We should have enough time to not only put it all back but get the additional boom out there that we've been talking about the last couple of days," Riley said.
Deepwater Horizon Disaster
April 20: Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explodes off Louisiana coast. Eleven workers missing and presumed dead.
April 22: Rig sinks.
April 23: Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry says no oil appeared to be appeared to be leaking from the undersea wellhead or at the water's surface.
April 24: Leak reported; oil estimated to be leaking at rate of 1,000 barrels a day.
April 29: Coast Guard says leak may be five times greater than earlier estimate: 5,000 barrels a day. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declares state of emergency.
May 1: Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen named national incident commander.
May 2: President Obama visits Coast Guard station in Venice, La.
May 3: BP CEO Tony Hayward tells NPR his company will pay for the cleanup and any "legitimate" legal claims.
The situation could become even more grave if the oil gets into the Gulf Stream and flows to the beaches of Florida and potentially whips around the state's southern tip and up the Eastern Seaboard. Tourist-magnet beaches and countless wildlife could be ruined.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said the Gulf of Mexico spill could be devastating for Florida because its tourism industry depends on having beautiful beaches. People in the state's Panhandle are panicked, Nelson said at a tourism conference.
"I've been in Pensacola and I am very, very concerned about this filth in the Gulf of Mexico," Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said at a weekend fundraiser for his U.S. Senate campaign. "It's not a spill, it's a flow. Envision sort of an underground volcano of oil and it keeps spewing over 200,000 gallons every single day, if not more."
BP's Hayward told NPR that the company was working on a three-pronged approach to containing the spill. In addition to the dome-like system to siphon off spilled oil — which he said has "never been tried at 5,000 feet" — BP is using robotic submarines to try to repair a failed blowout preventer mechanism. It is also drilling a relief well to isolate the ruptured pipeline on the sea floor, but that process is likely to take months to complete.
On Sunday, federal fishing areas that stretch 6,800 square miles from the Mississippi River to the Florida Panhandle were closed for at least 10 days and likely more. The ban came just as the prime spring season was getting under way, threatening the livelihoods of fisherman in four states.
The Coast Guard and BP have said it's nearly impossible to know exactly how much oil has gushed since the blast. It has been roughly estimated to be at least 200,000 gallons a day.
At that rate, it would eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill, which dumped 11 million gallons off the Alaska coast, as the worst U.S. oil disaster in history.