BP cleanup falls significantly short of what was promised regulators

A view from a helicopter while landing on Discover Enterprise drill ship during recovery operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Steve Chiotakis: If what BP said to federal regulators before the Gulf of Mexico disaster were true, there wouldn't be much oil left in and around the Gulf. The Deepwater Horizon well exploded on April 20. But less than a month before that, BP assured federal regulators it could clean up nearly a half a million gallons a day if there were a spill. The Washington Post reports BP's removed a little more than half of that number in total. Kimberly Kindy wrote the story for the Post, she's with us live from D.C. this morning. Hi, Kimberly.

Kimberly Kindy: Hi.

Chiotakis: Give us an idea of how much BP overestimated what they could clean up there.

Kindy: Well they said they would be able to skim -- and this is skimming alone -- over 490,000 barrels a day. And what we're looking at really is closer to about 3,000 barrels a day.

Chiotakis: And how did they get that so -- I mean that's huge. How did they get that so wrong? Was this malfeasance, was it just incompetency? I mean what was it?

Kindy: Well they're not answering any questions about their numbers right now -- I've asked them, I've showed them my math. The truth is, though, this number was really created in isolation without . . . they didn't go to the company that was going to do the cleanup for them and say, hey, these numbers square, can you do this? The federal government didn't challenge them on those numbers at all, didn't ask them to prove they could arrive at those goals.

Chiotakis: This is the MMS, right? The Minerals Management Service.

Kindy: The Mineral Management Service, right, absolutely. So you have them not consulting with the people who they're counting on to to see if their numbers were accurate, and then federal government, MMS, not asking them, "How'd you come up with these numbers?" They were thrown into a report in isolation without anybody, it appears, looking at them and definitely not challenging them.

Chiotakis: And what could result from this overestimate? I mean does this mean more lawsuits in the future?

Kindy: Well there's a lawsuit already just over these numbers. Earth Justice, Sierra Club, some other groups called Frustration Network. Whether they'll be more, I don't know. I mean it definitely continues to put pressure on this effort to reform things. Plans for something this serious, this kind of disaster, they need to be checked and challenged, and they're really looking at -- there are all kinds of panels that are being put together right now looking at what needs to be done differently, Congress is looking at that. And a plan that really reflects reality is something that there's great push for, so that the next, if and when a disaster of this magnitude happens again, they've got a plan that checks reality.

Chiotakis: And very quickly, Kimberly, any plans to ramp up the cleanup down there?

Kindy: Well right now, they have this thing called "The Whale" out there that they're testing. It's a Taiwanese skimmer, 10 stories high, it's gigantic. They're hoping that it can skim as much as 50,000 barrels a day, and that would be a phenomenol change from the 3,000 they're doing right now.

Chiotakis: But still just a percentage, a mere percentage of what they had originally anticipated, right?

Kindy: Absolutely, yeah.

Chiotakis: Kimberly Kindy from The Washington Post, thank you so much.

Kindy: Thank you.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.

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