Effort To Contain Spill Stalls As Oil Moves Toward FloridaBP engineers are using the saw to slice through a pipe to fit a cap over the blown-out well. Officials acknowledge that the "cut and cap" procedure could end up sending more oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, the oil slick drifted perilously close to the Florida Panhandle.
BP's live stream of the oil leak from a remotely operated vehicle on the seabed:
BP engineers freed a diamond-tipped saw that had become stuck in a pipe in the latest attempt to contain the Gulf oil spill.
BP PLC spokesman Mark Proegler said Wednesday afternoon that the company was working out some logistical issues. The company is using the saw to slice through a pipe so it can fit a cap over the blown-out well and capture some of the spewing oil.
BP CEO Sorry For 'Hurtful' Remark
BP chief executive Tony Hayward has apologized for saying "I'd like my life back" to reporters over the weekend.
Hayward said in a statement posted on the company's Facebook site Wednesday that the remark was hurtful and thoughtless. He apologized to the community and the families of the 11 men who were killed in the April 20 rig explosion.
Hayward said "those words don't represent how I feel about this tragedy, and certainly don't represent the hearts of the people of BP — many of whom live and work in the Gulf — who are doing everything they can to make things right."
Hayward says his top priority is to restore the lives of the people of the Gulf region and their families.
— The Associated Press
Officials acknowledge that the "cut and cap" procedure could end up sending more oil into the Gulf because it could remove material that has actually been restricting the flow.
"Just the way when you unkink a garden hose more water comes through, somewhat more will come through here, and the question is how much more," NPR's Richard Harris told Morning Edition.
"Engineers believe most of what's stopping the flow of the oil is actually rubble that's down in the well and some of the junk inside the blowout preventer, so they're not expecting it to be an explosive increase," he said. "But BP says maybe it'll be a 10 percent increase. The federal government just looked at it and said more than likely it'll be a 20 percent increase in the flow of oil."
Oil Nears Florida
As robot submarines worked underwater, the nation's worst oil slick drifted perilously close to the Florida Panhandle. Oil was spotted about 7 miles south of Pensacola Beach. Thunderstorms were making it difficult to track the slick, said Escambia County emergency director John Dosh, and officials hoped the weather would clear so they could get an aerial view.
It was raining and cloudy at the beach off and on. On Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of tourists enjoyed the turquoise waters, but it wasn't as busy as usual at Peg Leg Pete's Oyster Bar, a beach institution frequented by boaters who pull up behind the restaurant in a cove off Pensacola Bay.
"We are looking at a Wednesday to Friday shoreline impact, but there is a line of uncertainty that depends on the wave action and the winds," Dosh said. "Today we are in a monitoring mode."
Emergency crews began scouring the beaches for oil and shoring up miles of boom, though choppy waters from thunderstorms could send the oil over the protective lines. County officials are using the boom to block oil from reaching inland waterways, but plan to leave beaches unprotected because they are easier to clean up.
"It's inevitable that we will see it on the beaches," said Keith Wilkins, deputy chief of neighborhood and community services for Escambia County.
The oil has been spreading in the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded six weeks ago, killing 11 workers and eventually sinking. The rig was being operated for BP, the largest oil and gas producer in the Gulf. Crude has already been reported along barrier islands in Alabama and Mississippi, and it has polluted some 125 miles of Louisiana coastline.
Some 2,000 feet above the Chandeleur Islands off the Louisiana coast, vast stretches of sheen meandered through the water, some reflecting pale rainbow colors. Farther away, swaths of oil in various sizes and thickness — from pale, barely detectable streams to rust-rimmed blue and purple patches that looked like giant bruises.
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.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Oil clouds the surface of Barataria Bay near Port Sulpher, La., on June 19.
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Workers adjust piping while drilling a relief well at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Charlie Neibergall/Getty Images
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.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
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.
NASA via Getty Images
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
1 of 36
"The problem is this oil now is really like a collection of smaller spills," Allen said during a flight in a C-144.
Allen, the national incident commander for the spill, said the threat of oil hitting the coast was shifting east, and skimmer vessels would be working offshore to intercept as much crude as possible.
Earlier this week, BP officials said they were concentrating cleanup efforts in Louisiana because they did not expect oil to reach other states.
More federal fishing waters were closed, too, another setback for one of the region's most important industries. More than one-third of federal waters were off-limits for fishing, along with hundreds of square miles of state waters.
BP Stock Recovers
In remarks at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, President Obama said that it's time to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil companies, and use the money for clean energy research and development. He said the catastrophic Gulf oil spill shows that the country must move toward clean energy, tapping natural gas and nuclear power, and eliminating tax breaks for big oil.
The Justice Department also has announced it started criminal and civil probes into the spill, although the department did not name specific targets for prosecution.
Shares in British-based BP PLC were down 3 percent early Wednesday before recovering in London trading, a day after a 13 percent fall. U.S.-listed shares of BP climbed 3.1 percent to $37.66. BP has lost $75 billion in market value since the spill started with an April 20 oil rig explosion, and analysts expect damage claims to total billions more.
Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Ron Wyden of Oregon are pressing BP to delay plans to pay shareholder dividends worth an expected $10 billion or more until the full costs for cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are calculated. The senators called it "unfathomable" that BP would pay out a dividend to shareholders before the total cost of the cleanup is known.
In a letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward, the lawmakers said taking action to "move money off of the company's books" will make it more difficult for BP to pay the U.S. government, fishermen and others affected by the environmental disaster.
BP PLC has paid an estimated $1 billion to clean up the oil leak and expects to spend billions more.
Just A Stopgap Until August
BP has tried and failed repeatedly to halt the flow of the oil, and the latest attempt, like others, has never been tried a mile beneath the ocean. Experts warned that it could be even riskier than the others because of the chances that slicing open the 20-inch riser could unleash more oil.
"It is an engineer's nightmare," said Ed Overton, a Louisiana State University professor of environmental sciences. "They're trying to fit a 21-inch cap over a 20-inch pipe a mile away. That's just horrendously hard to do. It's not like you and I standing on the ground pushing — they're using little robots to do this."
Engineers have put underwater robots and equipment in place this week after a bold attempt to plug the well by force-feeding it heavy mud and cement — called a "top kill" — was aborted over the weekend. Crews pumped thousands of gallons of the mud into the well but were unable to overcome the pressure of the oil.
BP's best chance to permanently plug the leak rests with that pair of relief wells that won't be completed until August. Meanwhile, BP is developing contingencies for its latest plan. The approach of hurricane season is one concern, according to NPR's Harris.
"The initial plan has a rigid pipe that goes from this [destroyed] blowout preventer up to the surface. And you can't operate in a big storm when you're doing that," Harris said. So BP plans to build a secondary system with a flexible pipe that could allow a ship to weather the wind and the waves while continuing to collect the oil. "Otherwise, it's spilling back into the Gulf," Harris said.
But he stressed that it's all a stopgap. A new well that should be completed two months from now will connect with the bottom of the broken well.
"It's called a relief well, but what it's really supposed to do is intersect with the bottom of the existing blown-out well, and if they can hit that well, they can pump cement down there and permanently stop the oil inside that old well from flowing up anymore," Harris said. The second new well being drilled is a backup, in case the first one doesn't work.
NPR's Debbie Elliott contributed to this report from Orange Beach, Ala. Material from The Associated Press was used.