August 2, 2010

BP's COO Doug Suttles apparently thinks that most Americans are completely ignorant or that even if they aren't, it's not going to matter because the media and our government are going to allow them to cover up the amount of damage done by this catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr. Suttles gave a press conference this weekend where he downplayed the dangers of the dispersants that have been poured into the Gulf and laid it squarely back on the feet of our government for allowing them to poison the waters. He also claimed that he'd eat the seafood coming out of the Gulf and thinks it's safe. I'd like to personally see for myself someone catch some fish from those waters full of chemicals and watch him eat it and feed it to his children if that's true.

Laffy over at The Political Carnival has been keeping in touch with whistleblower and former EPA investigator Hugh Kaufman and here's her latest take on the media coverage of this disaster and the media downplaying the use of dispersants.

“Shame on LSU, shame on Rush Limbaugh, shame on CNN, shame on Anderson Cooper!” + VIDEO

As she noted in this post as well, I'm not sure how much of what BP is being allowed to get away with has to do with fears of what would happen on Wall Street if their company went down and the government's horrid response to this disaster, but it makes about as much sense as anything else I've read and has also been my gut feeling as to why they haven't done more to keep BP in check as well. All I know is that watching what has gone on has made me feel almost as sick as I did when I watched the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The people in the Gulf deserve better than this and it looks like they're being hung out to dry again.

This time they might be poisoning all of us if they want to tell us those waters are safe for fishing now. I want to hear that the fish being pulled out of that water along with the water they're saying is safe to fish in doesn't have Corexit in it or petroleum products from the spill. I don't believe for one minute that millions of gallons of oil and dispersants just disappeared and those waters are now safe to fish in and swim in.

VIDEO: “Clues to the Obama Administration’s Passive Response to the BP Disaster”

Transcript of the Suttles press conference below the fold.

DOUG SUTTLES, COO, BP: And every day is getting better. There's still a lot to do. There's still a lot of activities. Here in Venice alone, we have over 2,000 people working on the response right now. And there still are areas to clean. There's still oil on the water to pick up. And I just stress we're going to be here doing that until the job is completely done. Once that's done, we've got to focus on the restoration activities. We're going to be here for a very, very long time. I know people are worried about that, now that the well has stopped flowing, will we pack up and go? And the answer is clearly no, we're not going to do that.

Offshore we continue to make progress. We're running the casing in the relief well just now. We'll be cementing that casing later on tonight and into tomorrow. We've got the equipment all hooked up to perform the static kill. And once we get the casing run and cemented, we'll actually perform that operation. Once we get also the go ahead from Admiral Allen, so right now the current forecast is, is we'll do that activity on Tuesday.

After that, we still have to finish the relief well. We'll still have to go and intercept this well bore. That's on track for about the middle of August. Clearly we had some setback from Tropical Storm Bonnie, but I think all along we've said sometime in the first half of August, and it still looks like we'll achieve that. So overall it is encouraging to see out there. There's still a lot to do and there's a lot of activity. We still have tens of thousands of people working on the spill. We have thousands of boats and almost 100 aircraft still working on this because there's still a lot of activity.

But clearly we're almost three weeks actually since the last oil came out of this well into the ocean and that is making a difference. And the efforts by all the people you see working here and right across the Gulf Coast are also making a big difference. And I just want to thank them, because you guys know what it's like. This is summertime in the Gulf Coast and it's hot out here. And the folks who are responding to this spill are doing this every single day out in the heat. So with that I'll just stop and happy to take any of your questions.

QUESTION: Are you going to begin the process of shutting the well down permanently on Monday or you're going to start it on Tuesday?

SUTTLES: Well, the current forecast on the static kill is that that operation -- it can't begin until we get the casing run and cemented in the relief well and that's ongoing as we speak. Once that's finished, we'll be ready to do the static kill. The current forecast it looks like is Tuesday right now.

QUESTION: Can you guarantee them there's not any environmental effects from the dispersants?

SUTTLES: Well, you know, the use of dispersants, it's been a really important tool in the fight but clearly it's created a lot of concern as well. Ourselves, EPA and others have been taking samples in the water column. It's part of the protocols when we use these to see if there are any negative effects to these thing, any issues about toxicity, for instance.

I'll also remind you that we set up this Gulf research initiative, which is $500 million spent over a decade to look at the long-term impacts from the spill. So we'll have efforts there to not only look at the short term but the long term. And so we're going to keep doing that. We're going to keep doing that. Right now we haven't seen anything that causes -- that shows us to be concerned, but we're going to keep looking.

QUESTION: Can you guarantee the people that it's going to be safe?

SUTTLES: Well, I can't guarantee that because I don't know. What I can guarantee is we're going to look for it, we are going to study it and we're going to look at the impacts. We're going to see if we find it in the water column and if it's creating problems in the water column. And if it is, we'll have to do something about that.

QUESTION: The congressman in Massachusetts basically said that BP carpet bombed the ocean with the dispersants and did so with working hand in hand with the Coast Guard. Your reaction to that, did you guys do too much despite what the EPA said?

SUTTLES: Well, you know, we worked very, very closely in unified command, and that includes the Coast Guard, BP, people like the EPA, NOAA, other agencies on what the right response was.

Dispersants were only one tool. There were very, very rigorous protocols we had to follow. We had to apply for permission to apply them. It was based on surveillance data. The federal on-scene coordinator, the Coast Guard, has to formally approve those. Some days they approved our request, other days they didn't and they reduced our request. The EPA actually as you know asked us to try to do everything we could to minimize it. I think we reduced the volumes by almost I think over 70 percent in fact.

So I think we all worked hard to not use any more than we could to, but I would say it was a very effective tool in helping fight the spill. These are all trade-offs and one of the things we didn't see happen was it reach the shoreline and dispersants were effective in that.

QUESTION: So your reaction to the congressman saying you all basically carpet bombed them?

SUTTLES: What we did is what ourselves and the unified command coast guard and others felt was the appropriate amount. And we continue to modify that approach as we went. QUESTION: Mr. Suttles, just to follow up on the dispersant issue, as you know just the last several days Louisiana has opened its coastline to commercial fishing. I'm just curious, would you eat the seafood coming out of the Gulf of Mexico given the volume of oil and volume of dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico? Would you allow your loved ones to eat seafood coming out of there?

SUTTLES: I absolutely would. There's been a tremendous amount of testing done by NOAA and the state agencies and the FDA and others. They're not going to open these waters to either sport fishing or commercial fishing if it's not safe to eat the fish. I have a lot of confidence in those agencies and I trust their agencies and I would eat their food, the seafood out of the Gulf here and I would feed it to my family.

QUESTION: You don't think this industry is permanently damaged?

SUTTLES: I don't believe so. And we want to do everything we can to help them. I hope that we're slowly on the road to recovery. We've got to finish the response. We want to get this place back where it was before the spill.

QUESTION: Are you working in timing with the opening of the fishing as well as -- to make sure fishermen don't get large numbers before they have a situation --

SUTTLES: Well, the vessels of opportunity, one thing everyone should know, they have been a real important part of the response. They have been out there helping us fight the fight. They do everything from transport goods to do medical runs. They actually help rescue wildlife, they skim for oil, they collect boom, they set out boom, they do many, many important tasks in here.

Of course one of the reasons you like to use that program is because these are people impacted by the spill and it helps them offset the impacts. The other thing, of course, these are people who know these waters. We have a very strong bias to use commercial folks first because it's affecting their living, but they're also professional mariners as well.

What we want to do is if we have a chance between a vu vessel and a commercial vessel, we want to use a vu vessel because that's the right thing to do here. Our vu program has always been driven by the operational requirements. It's gone up, it's gone down and it will continue to do so but clearly like everyone I want to see the waters open to fishing as soon as we can and I know these people want to get out and fish again and I hope they can.

QUESTION: Is it difficult to find oil on the surface since the temporary cap went into place but there's still concern about the oil underneath the water. You don't have an estimate at this point on the amount of oil that's still unacted for?

SUTTLES: No, I don't have an estimate on how much might be down there but we're looking for it. We haven't found any real indication of anything in quantities. We're taking water samples offshore all the way down to up to 5,000 feet in the water column. We've set out materials near shore down through the water column near shore to see if we see any oil there. So we are looking for it. Right now we're not seeing much. I know it's a big concern and we need to actually search for it. And if we find it, we'll have to figure out what to do with it but so far we haven't found much.

QUESTION: With regards to the bottom kill that you expect to start mid-August, how confident are you that it's going to work? Is there anything that keeps you up at night, even that concerns you? I mean, this is something that hasn't been done at this depth before. Something you all have said since the very beginning. So can you say with absolute certainty that it's going to work and that you won't have to try something else?

SUTTLES: Well, what we've got is we've got the very best experts in the industry helping us with that relief well and doing that intercept. We've done a tremendous amount of planning, the precision we're using, the care we're taking in this last section of the well, we'll only be drilling about 20 feet at a time and then measure and 20 feet and measure. So we're doing everything we can. We also have the second relief well standing by if we need it. But I actually have a lot of confidence we're going to intercept that well and we're going to be able to see if we need to do any sort of pumping operation once we do that. So I do have a lot of confidence we'll be successful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have time for one more question. Go right ahead.

QUESTION: Can you tell me why are there more people working here and there doesn't seem to be oil than there are up in Myrtle Grove where there's a lot of oil and very few people picking up.

SUTTLES: Well, I didn't go to Myrtle Grove today. I did check and ask how many people are working there. We have something like 150 people over there today and we have 20-some odd vessels over there working today. What we actually do and in fact I just met with the team inside the building here, we have reconnaissance activity, we have a situation unit, we have a planning team and these people actually look and see what we observe every day and dispatch our resources based on that.

And in the situation it does move from day to day. We have oil show up in some places. If you're near the marsh, sometimes as it warms up like it is now, some of the oil that's in the marsh will come out on the tide and we have to be there to get it so we allocate our resources. In fact Fred and the commander do that every single day. They map out what they see and put the resources where the oil is.

QUESTION: If you say you're looking --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. Ma'am, I'm sorry, we have to go.

QUESTION: If you say you're looking for the oil, do you have a clear plan?

Can you help us out?

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