June 7, 2010

CBS legal correspondent Sharyl Attkisson on Face the Nation discussed their investigative report that revealed the latest estimates on the amount of oil pouring into the Gulf from the government are being low-balled, contrary to Admiral Thad Allen's statements earlier in the same program.

How The Oil Leak Estimates Got Low-Balled:

Just last week, the Interior Department released a range of 12-to-19,000 barrels a day -- up to four times what the government and BP had claimed. That's 504,000 to 798,000 gallons each day. That's bad enough. But it turns out that's not exactly what the scientists conducting the analysis found.

Sources tell CBS News that 12-19,000 barrels a day is actually the minimum believed to be leaking from the well based on the most "conservative assumptions." The upper end of the range, a maximum, hasn't yet been released. But those facts were lost somewhere in the translation between the scientists and the Interior Department press release. Read on...

Attkisson also explained how the differences in the estimates could mean a difference in the amount of fines BP ultimately pays.

Transcript via CBS below the fold.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And, with us now around the table three people who I’m sure have all the answers--CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford, Dan Balz of the Washington Post, and CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

Sharyl, I want to start with you because you did quite a bit of reporting on this this week. You were the one who said, wait a minute, these estimates that they’re giving us; this is the low end of the estimate of how much oil is coming out. First, what about the numbers we heard today and what really is the significance of those numbers?

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Well, Commandant Allen, if he’s saying that twelve to nineteen or twelve to twenty-five thousand barrels a day is the range, the estimate of oil coming out of there as figured by the independent scientist that he hired to do this or that he’s tasked, that’s incorrect. I have the actual report, which shows the plumemodeling team said at least twelve to twenty-five-thousand barrels a day are coming out of there. And, that is the lower bound. They have yet to release the upper bound, which sources tell me will be significantly higher. That has not yet been released by the government. But the government has been treating the low bound as if it’s the entire range.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So, what-- what’s the big deal about that? What difference does it make?

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Well, it makes a huge difference to perhaps, the com-- how the competency of the government looks but from a financial standpoint for BP, it’s the difference between millions of gallons and billions of dollars in fines, because they will be fined ultimately based on some government estimate by how many barrels that they've released, as much as four thousand three hundred dollars per barrel. So, in just the first forty days of this crisis, if you go with the low-end estimates, you’re talking about two billion dollars for just the first forty days.

If you go with higher estimates, even slightly higher estimates, we’re looking at four billion dollars and that’s just for the beginning of this. So, you can see how important those estimates are.


BOB SCHIEFFER: Ah, Sharyl, what do you think is going to happen now? What can we expect
on this?

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Well, I think the government will continue on all levels to try to look like they’re getting in front of this, which will be hard to do because the initial perception was that they were not. And almost every action that comes now appears, whether it is or not, reactionary instead of proactive. But they’re going to try to continue to get ahead of it. I recommend they post documents on the oil flow estimates, which they haven’t posted yet but they promise to do. They come clean with a lot of questions we’ve asked about how these numbers are being calculated and they quit stalling and giving the appearance whether true or not that they may have an interest, the government, in low-balling these figures.

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