+With the well capped and much of the oil removed from the open ocean, BP is preparing to withdraw its cleanup workers, drawing fire from local officials in Louisiana who say the spill’s full effects are not yet fully understood.
+BP plans to try plugging the well for good “as early as” tonight.
+This year’s Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” is the size of Massachusetts, and among the largest ever, though the area of oxygen-depleted water is concentrated west of the spill, near Galveston, Texas.
+Tourists who stay in Walton County can get a $250 shopping spree or Southwest Airlines voucher, paid for by BP.
+Mike Sole, the state’s point man on the spill, has stepped down as head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
+The oil does not threaten South Florida or the Keys, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Unified Command.
+The EPA is downplaying the risks of chemical dispersant after drawing scrutiny from Congressman Ed Markey, whose Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment has been investigating use of the chemicals.
+Cleanup workers have left a trail of controversy on Florida beaches (more after the jump).
Assessing the damages
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Paul Rubin argues that “arguments made by tort reformers have little weight” in the case of lawsuits seeking damages from BP, which he believes should be held fully liable for losses caused by the spill.
Both proponents and opponents of tort reform should agree: this is a case where full economic damages are appropriate but punitive damages should not be pursued.
Proponents of punitive damages might argue they will provide a way to punish BP and send a signal to would-be offenders. “But these are mainly appropriate in cases where an injurer might be able to hide his culpability,” Rubin argues, and BP stands little chance of doing that.
“They’ve done a good job.”
Craig Pittman of the St. Petersburg Times offers an interesting report on the foibles of quickly dispatching a crew of cleanup workers from all over the South on short notice.
There have been complaints about male workers leering at women on the beach. Some people have thrown things at them. Others complained about seeing them sitting around and doing nothing.
“Word came down from BP: Take your breaks in a method that doesn’t look like you’re lying down,” said Christopher Klug, 55, a University of South Florida graduate student who supervised a cleanup crew on Pensacola Beach.
The work, he said, was “a bit like cleaning the world’s largest cat box.” They used rakes and shovels — not exactly the most efficient way to scrape off hundreds of miles of sand, he said.
He notes problems with workers busted arrested on immigration problems, communication problems between local governments (who fielded most people’s complaints), BP and its tangled web of contractors, and difficulties getting workers where they needed to be when they needed to be there.
“Last month we had a lot of product washing ashore, and we only had 30 to 50 workers,” [Walton County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Mike] Barker said. “Then in recent weeks we’ve had very little oil washing in, and we’ve had 1,600 to 2,000 people on the beach.”