A containable accident, then suddenly a crisis

Calvin Woodward
Associated Press via Breitbart.com

WASHINGTON (AP) – Suddenly, everything changed.

For days, as an oil spill spread in the Gulf of Mexico, BP assured the government the plume was manageable, not catastrophic. Federal authorities were content to let the company handle the mess while keeping an eye on the operation.

But then government scientists realized the leak was five times larger than they had been led to believe, and days of lulling statistics and reassuring words gave way Thursday to an all-hands-on-deck emergency response. Now questions are sure to be raised about a self-policing system that trusted a commercial operator to take care of its own mishap even as it grew into a menace imperiling Gulf Coast nature and livelihoods from Florida to Texas.

The pivot point had come Wednesday night, at a news conference at an oil research center in the tiny community of Robert, La. That’s when the nation learned the earlier estimates were way off, and an additional leak had been found.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama set in motion a larger federal mobilization, pledging to deploy “every single available resource” to the area and ordering his disaster and environmental leaders to get down there in person. Only a few days after the Coast Guard assured the country there was “ample time” to protect the coast if oil came ashore, warnings from the government were newly alarming…

.. The crisis began with a massive explosion aboard the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon on April 20, more than 40 miles off the Louisiana coast. The search for 11 missing workers overshadowed environmental concerns until they were given up for lost.

Rear Adm. Mary Landry, chief of the Coast Guard in the region, said at the outset that most of the oil was burning off, leaving only a moderate rainbow sheen on the water and no sign of a major spill.

“Both the industry and the Coast Guard have technical experts actively at work,” she said. “So there’s a whole technical team on both sides of the aisle here to ensure we keep the conditions stable.”

Two days later, the Deepwater Horizon sank and crews spotted a 1-by-5-mile sheen with a dark center that appeared to be a crude oil mix. Obama got his first briefing on the accident.

The entire article is at Breitbart.com

And, from Michael D. Shear of The Washington Post, 5/1/2010:

President Obama will head to the Gulf region this weekend to see for himself the environmental damage from the oil slick and to check in on the federal response to the explosion at an oil rig that caused the crisis, a top White House official said.

The president will travel at some point this weekend, though officials said they were still working out exactly when and where he will go. Obama is headed to Michigan his morning to deliver a commencement address and is supposed to attend the White House Correspondents dinner tonight.

A senior official said the White House began thinking about a presidential visit Friday morning, but did not decide to go this weekend until later in the day. The president will travel with what officials said would be a “very light footprint” to avoid disrupting the response effort.

There was no word on what the president will do when he gets to the gulf. But, the White House is no doubt aware of the public relations disaster for former president Bush, whose flyover of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans was widely mocked. And Bush’s praise for his FEMA director in the face of the chaos was seen as a low point of his presidency.

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