The White House Blog
Posted by Katelyn Sabochik
Today, President Obama travelled to the Gulf Coast region for the fourth time since the BP oil spill began in April. The President began his trip in Gulfport, Mississippi, where he met with National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen and local officials to discuss efforts to fight the BP oil spill. Later, the President had lunch with business owners in Gulfport, Mississippi, to discuss the impact the oil spill is having on tourism, fishing and other industries in the region.
Later in the afternoon the President travelled to Theodore, Alabama where he met with state and local officials and toured one of the 16 staging locations throughout the region that provide support for the ongoing cleanup efforts. The President delivered remarks in Theodore before boarding a ferry to Ft. Morgan, Alabama. The President began his remarks by assuring residents of the Gulf Coast region that their way of live would be preserved for future generations:
Now, what I’ve heard from a number of local officials during my trip today is what I’ve heard from folks on each of the four visits that I’ve made to this region since the Deepwater Horizon explosion happened in April. There’s a sense that this disaster is not only threatening our fishermen and our shrimpers and our oystermen, not only affecting potentially precious marshes and wetlands and estuaries and waters that are part of what makes the Gulf Coast so special — there’s also a fear that it can have a long-term impact on a way of life that has been passed on for generations.
And I understand that fear. The leaders and the officials who are with me understand it. Governor Riley understands it. He has been a regular presence on our daily coordinating calls, and a relentless advocate for Alabama throughout this process. And we are absolutely committed to working with him and all the local officials who are behind us to do everything in our power to protect the Gulf way of life so that it’s there for our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.
The President also addressed concerns about the safety of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico:
Dealing with the aftermath of this spill also means protecting the health and safety of the folks who live and work here in Theodore, here in Alabama, and here on the Gulf Coast. As part of this effort, I’m announcing a comprehensive, coordinated, and multi-agency initiative to ensure that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is safe to eat. Now, I had some of that seafood for lunch and it was delicious. But we want to make sure that the food industry down here as much as possible is getting the protect — the protection and the certification that they need to continue their businesses. So this is important for consumers who need to know that their food is safe, but it’s also important for the fishermen and processors, who need to be able to sell their products with confidence.
So, let me be clear: Seafood from the Gulf today is safe to eat. But we need to make sure that it stays that way. And that’s why, beyond closing off waters that have been or are likely to be exposed to oil, the FDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are increasing inspections of seafood processors, strengthening surveillance programs, and monitoring fish that are caught just outside of restricted areas. And we’re also coordinating our efforts with the states, which are implementing similar plans.
The President concluded his remarks by assuring the residents of the Gulf Coast region that the Administration would not rest until their lives and livelihoods had been returned to normal.
Now, I can’t promise folks here in Theodore or across the Gulf Coast that the oil will be cleaned up overnight. It will not be. It’s going to take time for things to return to normal. There’s going to be a harmful effect on many local businesses and it’s going to be painful for a lot of folks. Folks are going to be frustrated and some folks are going to be angry. But I promise you this: that things are going to return to normal. This region that’s known a lot of hardship will bounce back, just like it’s bounced back before. We are going to do everything we can, 24/7, to make sure that communities get back on their feet. And in the end, I am confident that we’re going to be able to leave the Gulf Coast in better shape than it was before.
Long ribbons of orange-brown oil 4 miles off Tampa Bay coast; Smelled like oil, felt like oil, couldn’t get it off hands (Photos)
Traces of oil off Pinellas beaches? Samples taken, Bay News 9 Tampa Bay, June 14, 2010:
Two men spotted what they think could be oil from the BP disaster off a Pinellas County beach while returning home from a fishing trip Sunday morning.
The men, Steve Weiss and David Mokotoff, said they were about four to five miles off Pass-a-Grille beach when they spotted what they believed was an oil sheen on the water.
“We saw this ribbon of orange brown material,” Mokotoff said. “Steve initially thought it might be discharge from somebody’s boat, but then when we got closer it was so long, even though it wasn’t wide we thought about the oil spill and decided to take a closer look at it.”
The men also said they smelled the substance.
“It smelled like oil, so we went back to investigate and, unfortunately, it felt like oil,” Weiss said. “We touched it; you couldn’t get it off your hands.”
The men filled a bottle with some of the water and brought it home. Representatives from the Coast Guard and Department of Environmental Protection pick up the sample.
The agencies said they do not believe it’s oil, but the sample will be taken to a lab and analyzed.
“It’s green in color and doesn’t appear to be oil,” said Kelly Smith, a marine science technician with the U.S. Coast Guard. “But we’ll be able to verify that 100 percent whenever we can get this back and have somebody actually look at it.”
The Coast Guard said they’ve been getting a lot of calls and reports from people with similar concerns, but so far they haven’t tested anything that’s actually been oil from the BP spill. They said most of the samples they’ve tested have turned out to be algae or other plant life.
SF GATE – Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau
The big question for many Democrats tonight is how far President Obama will go in his first Oval Office address to turn the Gulf of Mexico disaster into an opportunity to end the nation’s dependence on petroleum.
“This is one of those 9/11 opportunities where you can rally the country to move in a different direction,” said Lisa Margonelli, energy director of the center-left New America Foundation in Oakland. “It’s not simply a case of political repositioning. Obama is going to have to go into the phone booth and become Superman.”
Obama is in full crisis mode as he flies back to Washington for the 5 p.m. (PDT) televised address after his fourth visit to the gulf since the disaster began April 20.
Criticized in the initial weeks of the spill for seeming too detached and reliant on BP, Obama will tell the nation how much the federal government is doing to address the spill, taking responsibility for a disaster that has subsumed every other administration priority.
“All in all, we are confronting the largest environmental disaster in our history, with the largest environmental response and recovery effort in our history,” Obama said Monday in Alabama, one of the stops on his two-day trip, which also included Mississippi and Florida. “In the end, I am confident that we’re going to be able to leave the Gulf Coast in better shape than it was before.”
Democrats are eyeing polling that shows public ire focused on BP. They are pushing to expand the company’s liability and to use the disaster to reboot their push for alternative energy, climate-change legislation and perhaps some kind of tax on oil or carbon that would begin to reduce the nation’s reliance on oil.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, visited the gulf on a separate trip Monday and said she hopes to move legislation as early as next week that would lift a $75 million cap, established in 1990, on oil company liabilities for spills beyond direct clean-up costs.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, is calling in chief executives of the world’s five largest oil companies today for a hearing on “America’s energy future.” Waxman released documents Monday indicating BP had taken dangerous shortcuts to save money, including an e-mail from a BP engineer sent six days before the explosion calling the rig a “nightmare well.”
The House narrowly passed climate-change legislation a year ago that would cap carbon emissions, in effect setting a price on carbon. The bill was watered down by providing emissions allowances to affected businesses and requiring nothing of consumers. It has been stalled for a year in the Senate.
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration video, shot as officials coordinated response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, shows that federal officials almost immediately worried that the oil well could leak up to 110,000 barrels per day, or 4.6 million gallons.
The video appears on a federal Web site.
It was filmed in Seattle, at NOAA’s Western Regional Center, as scientists and federal officials in Seattle, Houston and New Orleans engaged in telephone conferences, according to a companion document on the Web site.
The video appears to have been edited, and it was shot by a person carrying a camera from room to room.
In it, officials are discussing the search for survivors of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. There is a hand-drawn map of the spill dated April 22. At one point, the video freezes on a sign next to a door that reads, “War Room.”
In one scene, officials say that the estimate for the leak in a worst-case scenario is between 65,000 and 100,000 barrels per day. A dry erase board on the wall reads “Estim: 64,000 to 110,000 bbls/day. CNN reported 300,000 gal/day.”
The high end of the estimate, 110,000 barrels, is about 4.6 million gallons. At that spill rate, 32 million gallons of oil would enter the Gulf every week. By comparison, the entire Exxon Valdez spill was about 11 million gallons.
Officials estimate current flow from the damaged well at 210,000 gallons a day.
It is unclear from the video what events would have to transpire to raise the flow rate higher.
A confidential NOAA report, dated April 28 and circulated among federal agencies, makes similar projections regarding spill size in a worst-case situation.
It describes newly discovered leaks in the tangle of riser pipe, attributing them to ongoing erosion of the pipe. The riser pipe, in this case about 5,000 feet long, connects the wellhead on the sea floor to the drilling rig on the surface.
“If the riser pipe deteriorates further, the flow could become unchecked,” reads the report.
On Thursday, the day after the NOAA report was circulated, BP officials said they were worried about “erosion” of the piping.
Sand is an integral part of the formations that hold oil under the Gulf. The raw crude rising from the bottom of a well carries sand and other abrasive materials. In effect, the oil is sandblasting the piping as it rushes through with tremendous force, according to petroleum engineers.
“I think we need to be prepared for it to be the spill of the decade,” Debbie Payton of NOAA, the meeting’s coordinator, says during the NOAA video.
NOAA did not immediately respond to the Press-Register’s request for comment on the video.
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