It was a long day of finger-pointing on the Hill today for three executives from the companies involved in the oil spill that began April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico. Lamar McKay, chairman and president of BP America; Steven Newman, president and CEO of Transocean Ltd.; and Tim Probert, president of Global Business Lines of Halliburton testified in the first of two days of Senate hearings.
Meanwhile, 50 miles south of the Louisiana coast, the wellhead continues to gush oil—described by an environmental scientist today as "brownish and orangey-brown and tannish-brown patches of sticky gunk"—at a rate of anywhere from 210,000 gallons (NOAA's estimate) to 2,520,000 gallons per day (BP's high estimate). A much smaller dome has been lowered into the Gulf in a second attempt to contain the leak.
Just how much oil is that, anyway? PBS has a running ticker of total gallons spilled into the Gulf, and the Times-Picayune graphically represents the size of the spill day-by-day using NOAA flyover data and trajectories. An engineer at Google created a site where you can overlay the spill (size as of May 6) anywhere on the map. It's not looking good for southern Louisiana—and a potentially devastating hurricane season is just three weeks away.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that the Mineral Management Service will be divided into two agencies. The MMS was implicated in a series of ethics scandals which were detailed in a 2008 report that featured a chapter titled "A Culture of Ethical Failure." According to the Los Angeles Times:
The investigation found that current and former employees in the royalty program's Denver office engaged in "unbridled, unethical conduct" with oil and gas company representatives—a tame way of describing partying that included alcohol, cocaine and marijuana use, as well as sexual relationships between MMS employees and energy industry insiders.
"We must not hesitate to take actions that would bring about change and reform now," Salazar said today.