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Gulf oil spill: BP ordered to dramatically scale back use of dispersants

May 24, 2010 |  3:22 pm

Angry with BP's inability to find a less toxic dispersant against the gulf oil spill, the federal government will  order BP to dramatically scale back its use of surface dispersants, chastising the company for an "insufficient" response to the issue.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Coast Guard Adm. Mary Landry used frank language to describe a Sunday night meeting with BP officials. Jackson called BP’s response to the agency’s order to find a substitute dispersant “insufficient.”

“We are not satisfied that BP has done extensive analysis of other dispersant options," Jackson said. "They were more interested in defending their original decisions than studying other options.” Jackson said that the Coast Guard, not BP, will make the ultimate decision about the daily amount and manner of dispersant use and that the product could be scaled back by 50% to 75%. 

Subsea injections, which had never been administered at 5,000 feet, had been effective and would continue, Jackson said. But the surface applications of dispersant, in particular, would be lessened even as skimming and controlled burns continue.

Further, Jackson chided BP’s lack of transparency and suggested that the federal government no longer trusted the oil company’s testing data, which has so far shown that the dispersant, Corexit, is effective and not a risk to aquatic life.

“Rather than take their word for it at this point, I’d rather have my own scientists do their own analysis,” Jackson said, adding that a federal lab in Florida will begin testing dispersant effectiveness and toxicity.

Further adding to BP’s woes, Jackson said now that oil had reached land, the company is liable for environmental fines and penalties.

Meanwhile, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the energy and environment subcommittee in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who first raised these concerns last week, released the following statement:

Just like many aspects of their spill response, BP gets an ‘F’ on its analysis of dispersants, and EPA has rightly told it to redo its assignment and this time, show all its work.

Despite the assertions made by BP that dispersants can be safely used, we know almost nothing about the potential harm from the long-term use of any of these chemicals on the marine environment in the Gulf of Mexico, and even less about their potential to enter the food chain and ultimately harm humans.

--Julie Cart, reporting from Los Angeles

--Richard Simon, reporting from Washington


 

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