June 25, 2010

Weather Forecast Puts Strain On Spill Cleanup

The fight to gather the oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico is facing yet another trial today as forecasters are predicting that high seas and rough winds could push crude ashore in Florida.

"This will be the first time and there is no playbook," Coast Guard commandant Thad Allen told CNN of the "tropical wave" moving into the southern Gulf.

"I will tell you there has been an extraordinary amount of planning being done between the folks of the national incident command and incident commanders on the ground," he said.

The slick has already soiled the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, but could spell disaster for Florida.

"Low pressure along the wave in the Caribbean is moving NW and could possibly develop into a tropical cyclone," the Miami, Florida-based center said.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson said Thursday that the Coast Guard told him the storm would force BP to stop siphoning oil spilling out from the well for at least a week, leaving the 35,000 to 60,000 barrels a day freely flowing into the Gulf.

"That means you have 60,000 barrels a day that will gush uninterrupted and unskimmed for 10 days," said Nelson, who is urging the Navy to outfit vessels as skimmers and have them on standby.

Oil began oozing onto beaches in Florida, prompting a swimming ban from far western Florida to the east side of Pensacola Beach through Santa Rosa Island.

"There's oil both in the water and in the sand," Warren Bielenberg, an official with the Gulf Islands National Seashore, told AFP news.

"It's pretty ugly, there's no question about it," said Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

Florida's 1,260 miles of western coastline is home to a number of popular beaches, as well as coral reefs and an important fishing industry.

State officials have mounted an aggressive beach and coastline cleanup effort in order to try and stop the oil from reaching the beaches.

Tourism in Florida generates over a million jobs and brought the state $65 billion in revenue in 2008.

On Thursday, BP executives met with Carol Browner, President Barack Obama's assistant for Energy and Climate Change, to discuss "keep issues including contentment, redundancy, claims and scientific monitoring," said the White House.

Browner stressed to the BP executives Obama's "commitment... that we are not going to rest or be satisfied until the leak is stopped at the source," the White House said.

Internal BP documents released by a U.S. lawmaker this week showed that BP had projected worst-case scenario of up to 100,000 barrels of oil leaking into the sea. 

America's worst previous oil spill, the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, dumped about 11 million gallons off the Alaska coast.  Current estimates show that about 100 million gallons have entered the Gulf because of BP's spill.

The Obama administration was looking for another way to impose a moratorium on deepwater drilling after a judge ruled it was "arbitrary and capricious."

The Obama administration pledged to reissue the order, using different language to overcome legal obstacles.


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