+ Florida’s beaches remain mostly clear of new oil, but another “onslaught” is expected later this week.
+ BP once again delayed pressure testing on a new, tighter-fitting cap intended to stop the flow of oil.
The decision to delay the well-integrity test came after a meeting with U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, several scientists and BP officials, who decided that “the process may benefit from additional analysis.”
Yesterday during a call with reporters, former Adm. Thad Allen said that whether the cap succeeded or not, ramped up containment efforts would allow the company to collect most of the gushing oil by the end of this month, and a relief well was still intended to provide the final fix.
+ The national oil spill commission concluded two days of meetings, and said it would be scrutinizing the Obama Administration’s new moratorium on deep-water drilling (more after the jump).
+ Regulators are urging banks to increase lending in gulf states.
+ How to clean up an oil spill, from a boater’s perspective.
+ The International Energy Agency expects global oil demand to increase 1.6 percent in 2011.
Commission questions drilling moratorium
A day after the Obama Administration announced a renewed moratorium on deep-water oil drilling, former Florida Gov. Bob Graham and former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly, the co-chairmen of the commission studying the spill, said they would be scrutinizing the measure.
Mr. Reilly said he was “quite moved” by the testimony of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.), who said the government should be able to move faster than six months to determine the safety levels of the 33 rigs covered by the ban. Mr. Reilly said he was also surprised that representatives of Louisiana’s fishing industry, rocked by the spill, had called for a lifting of the moratorium.
“Frankly, I have less understanding as to why it’s going to take so long to reassure people that the existing rigs are safe,” Mr. Reilly said during a news conference with Mr. Graham.
Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (the agency formerly known as the Minerals Management Service), told the commission the ban was necessary because oil companies were not equipped to clean up spills.
“They don’t have a fix on what the most effective containment strategies are,” Bromwich testified Tuesday before the presidential commission investigating the cause of the April 20 BP explosion and spill and the future of offshore drilling in the United States. The BP spill also has consumed response equipment and personnel from across the country, exposing vulnerabilities should deepwater drilling resume, he said.
Gulf dead zones
Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia, who raised some of the first alarms about subsea oil plumes and warned recently of expanding dead zones in the oil-covered Gulf of Mexico, questioned the federal government’s recent finding that the oil spill has not substantially lowered oxygen levels in the area around the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
The federal scientists were testing an area closer to the leaking wellhead, where the oil was fresher, Ms. Joye said. Oil farther away, which had been in the water longer, was more likely to have attracted oil-eating bacteria that reduce oxygen levels, she said.
“It certainly isn’t safe to conclude there is no oxygen problem, based on oxygen measurements that are made close to the spill site,” Ms. Joye said in a call Tuesday with reporters. Referring to the federal tests, she said: “I don’t think that’s a wise way to make conclusions about oxygen.”
Federal officials reported last month that, based on one ship’s research, oxygen levels didn’t appear to have fallen to dangerous levels, though the government urged further monitoring.
The task is complicated by the fact that increased runoff from the Mississippi River typically leads to lower oxygen levels during summer months. More detailed data, including tests conducted farther from the gushing well, are expected to be released later this week.
Related: There’s oil in the food chain.
David S. Abraham argues in today’s New York Times that fault for the spill goes beyond BP and the Interior Department.
For more than a decade, legislators have allowed themselves to be lulled by industry assurances that drilling in deep water posed little danger. One could say that Congress, just like the companies it has attacked, was obsessed with oil.
Before the spill, Congress had not debated regulatory safety on wells in the gulf since the 1990s, and when it did, lawmakers focused on how to drill for more oil — which, after all, meant more jobs and more federal revenue for pet projects.
Related: Joe Stephens argues in the Washington Post that lessons from the Exxon Valdez spill went unheeded.