American Morning

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July 8th, 2010
12:00 PM ET

Louisiana officials debate oil protection plan

Oil pools in between booms in Barataria Bay June 19, 2010 near Grand Isle, Louisiana. (Getty Images)

(CNN) – A new fight is brewing over how to protect the Gulf's fragile wetlands from the oil gusher. Some Louisiana officials want to build rock barriers to block the oil. BP said it would pay for the project, but the Army Corps of Engineers says it's not going to happen. And it doesn't look like this fight is over yet. Deano Bonano is homeland security director for Jefferson Parish. He joined us on Thursday's American Morning to debate the issue, along with Denise Reed, wetlands specialist and director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences. Watch Video

The first relief well BP is drilling in the Gulf of Mexico could intercept the leaking Deepwater Horizon well in seven to 10 days, the man heading the federal response to the oil crisis said Thursday.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said the length of time it will take to seal the well will depend on "where the oil is coming up through, where they can intercept, where they can put the mud in, where they can put the cement plug."

He reiterated that despite that accelerated time frame, he's sticking with mid-August as the expected time for the "bottom kill" procedure to be completed. "Certain things could move that up," Allen said, but for the second time in as many days, he couched that optimism, saying, "It's better to under-promise and over-deliver."

BP is in the final stages of drilling one of two relief wells, which is now 17,780 feet deep, Allen said. He called it "the slowest, most meticulous part."

After several days of rough seas, improved weather Thursday was allowing oil skimmers to restart their cleanup efforts in the Gulf, said Allen. He added that forecasters expected good weather for the next 7 to 10 days, and he hoped to make significant progress in the operation during "a weather window that we may not see again this summer."

Allen said he is asking BP to present a timeline within the next 24 hours detailing the series of events to take place. The timeline would outline how BP would concurrently hook up the oil-recover vessel, the Helix Producer, and replace the existing containment cap with a larger, more permanent seal. He said it would make sense to replace the containment cap and hook up the Helix Producer at the same time.

Rough seas earlier in the week delayed plans to deploy the Helix Producer, which could bring in up to 25,000 barrels of oil a day from the ruptured well, upping the total possible collection to 53,000 barrels of oil a day, which Allen said is the maximizum amount of oil capture in the current setup. BP says it recovered about 24,575 barrels on Wednesday, bringing the total number of barrels removed from the Gulf to about 706,700.

Allen also said switching out the containment caps would increase the potential oil gathered each day to between 60,000 and 80,000 barrels - more than the 35,000-60,000 barrels scientists estimate is spewing from the breached well each day. However, while the caps are being switched out, oil would flow freely into the Gulf, so having the Helix Producer up and running to gulp up the gushing oil would be crucial.

While the relief-well drilling and Gulf cleanup continue, the battle over President Obama's effort to suspend deepwater drilling moves Thursday to a federal appeals court in Louisiana.

Oral arguments in a case that challenged the Obama administration's six-month ban on deepwater drilling start in the afternoon in New Orleans.

An advocacy group called Alliance for Justice made a pre-emptive strike against the court on Wednesday. It released a report alleging that many appeals court judges have extensive ties to the oil industry, including the three-judge panel that will preside over the drilling ban hearing.

The extended cleanup time is wreaking havoc on local businesses. Oysterman Vlaho Mjehovich told CNN the damage to the local waters has long-term repercussions.

"I've seen areas go for 10 years without oysters coming back. This is not going to be done and fixed overnight. People have to understand. This will take years to come back. What do you do? I had a business. Now, I don't have a business. My business was taken from me overnight. I have to go look for a job now now," Mjehovich said.

Fears over the spill are now extending all the way to Florida's Atlantic shores. Small tar balls continued to wash ashore Wednesday at Cocoa Beach, just south of Cape Canaveral, but their source will have to be determined through testing in the coming days.

CNN's Vivian Kuo contributed to this report

Filed under: Environment • Gulf Oil Spill
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Smith in Oregon

    NOAA and the FDA are nearly entirely looking for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, the most common carcinogenic components of crude oil to alert the public that Gulf of Mexico seafood and shellfish are 'safe' to consume.

    Aromatic hydrocarbons evaporate, the Louisiana heavy crude from this Louisiana BP blown Oil well in the Mercando oil field is composed of some 50% Asphalt. Thousands of petrol-chemicals are NOT being tested for and have ZERO federal levels of safe to unsafe that are established. The paltry few elements and compounds that even have a federal level of safe to unsafe are tiny in comparison to those that are detectable thru a mass spectrometer or gas chromatograph test.

    Highly elevated levels of Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, Titanium and dozens of pesticides are found in ALL seafood, shellfish and aquatic life from many decades of Republican led corporations that have recklessly dumped their toxic waste into the world's Oceans rather than pay to have those same hazardous waste products from their slave labor plants properly and safely disposed of.

    Notice these recent federal seafood sample results are entirely omitting all mention of these known to be present toxic, poisonous compounds. None of which are 'Healthy' to consume. There is no amount of Mercury, Lead, Lead, Cadmium and Titanium that is 'Healthy' for you, your spouse and your children to consume.

    Does that make it 'safe' ?

    July 11, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  2. Ron

    Why can't BP use a sharkbite ball valve to stop all this oil from going into the gulf ?

    July 11, 2010 at 7:30 am |
  3. hilroy

    Regarding the oil spill, these laws which favors big oil and the deregulations in place was a contributing factor in the oil spill.

    But enough of that, let us blame the president for for everything that is wrong in these United States and for the laxed laws which were in place maybe long before he was born.

    And just when you think things could not get any hotter we see the New Black Panthers spewing their hate on the streets.

    Well, CNN provided and still does the Tea Party Express with lots of time to spew their hatred of the president so let us see if they provide the New Black Panthers with their air time. I would be stupid to bet on that.

    Come to think about it, The New Black Panther Party does have a point on racism and the powers who benefit from in America.

    July 9, 2010 at 7:25 am |