Department Of Justice Investigates BP For Faulty Oil Spill Estim - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Department Of Justice Investigates BP For Faulty Oil Spill Estimates

HUFFINGTONPOST.COM - On April 25, 2010, BP assured the Gulf Coast that a disaster wasn't unfolding.

Five days earlier, the Deepwater Horizon, a BP-leased rig in the Gulf of Mexico, had suffered a massive blowout, killing 11 men and seriously injuring 17 others. The floating platform burned for two days, then sank in 5,000 feet of water. Less than 48 hours later, BP discovered a leak from its deep-sea well.

BP knew that the well, tapping a reservoir of at least 50 million barrels, could release vast amounts of crude oil, dwarfing tanker-sized spills. But the company's experts quickly calculated that the well was releasing just 1,000 barrels a day, an estimate it provided to the Coast Guard shortly after the leak was found. The Coast Guard made BP's figure public on April 24.

At a press conference the next day, a New Orleans reporter asked whether the leak could produce a spill on par with the Exxon Valdez disaster. Doug Suttles, an engineer and BP's chief operating officer for exploration and production, told him it could not.

There were "many, many restrictions" within the well and other drilling equipment on the seafloor, Suttles said, dramatically slowing the release of oil. "This is a long way away from something more significant."

Events soon proved Suttles' reassurances to be terribly misplaced. The leak rate at the time was far, far higher than BP portrayed to the Coast Guard -- more than 50,000 barrels per day from the moment the rig went down until the well was capped 87 days later, a government-led panel of physicists and engineers would conclude that August. At that rate, the leak had produced an Exxon Valdez-sized spill at least every five days.

Today, more than a year after the spill ended, serious questions remain about BP's role in estimating the size of the undersea gusher.

What is clear is that BP failed, throughout the event, to produce an accurate estimate of the size of the leak to the federal government or the public. Also readily apparent is the company's strong vested interest in downplaying the size of the spill: federal pollution laws stipulate fines as high as $4,300 for every barrel of oil unlawfully discharged into U.S. waters. >>>CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

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